Is Recovery of Somatosensory Impairment Conditional for Upper-Limb Motor Recovery Early After Stroke?

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Background. Spontaneous recovery early after stroke is most evident during a time-sensitive window of heightened neuroplasticity, known as spontaneous neurobiological recovery. It is unknown whether poststroke upper-limb motor and somatosensory impairment both reflect spontaneous neurobiological recovery or if somatosensory impairment and/or recovery influences motor recovery. Methods. Motor (Fugl-Meyer upper-extremity [FM-UE]) and somatosensory impairments (Erasmus modification of the Nottingham Sensory Assessment [EmNSA-UE]) were measured in 215 patients within 3 weeks and at 5, 12, and 26 weeks after a first-ever ischemic stroke. The longitudinal association between FM-UE and EmNSA-UE was examined in patients with motor and somatosensory impairments (FM-UE ≤ 60 and EmNSA-UE ≤ 37) at baseline. Results. A total of 94 patients were included in the longitudinal analysis. EmNSA-UE increased significantly up to 12 weeks poststroke. The longitudinal association between motor and somatosensory impairment disappeared when correcting for progress of time and was not significantly different for patients with severe baseline somatosensory impairment. Patients with a FM-UE score ≥18 at 26 weeks (n = 55) showed a significant positive association between motor and somatosensory impairments, irrespective of progress of time. Conclusions. Progress of time, as a reflection of spontaneous neurobiological recovery, is an important factor that drives recovery of upper-limb motor as well as somatosensory impairments in the first 12 weeks poststroke. Severe somatosensory impairment at baseline does not directly compromise motor recovery. The study rather suggests that spontaneous recovery of somatosensory impairment is a prerequisite for full motor recovery of the upper paretic limb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-416
Number of pages14
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

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