Brain repair after stroke—a novel neurological model

Nature Reviews Neurology: 11/12/13

Following stroke, patients are commonly left with debilitating motor and speech impairments. This article reviews the state of the art in neurological repair for stroke and proposes a new model for the future. We suggest that stroke treatment—from the time of the ictus itself to living with the consequences—must be fundamentally neurological, from limiting the extent of injury at the outset, to repairing the consequent damage. Our model links brain and behaviour by targeting brain circuits, and we illustrate the model though action observation treatment, which aims to enhance brain network connectivity. The model is based on the assumptions that the mechanisms of neural repair inherently involve cellular and circuit plasticity, that brain plasticity is a synaptic phenomenon that is largely stimulus-dependent, and that brain repair required both physical and behavioural interventions that are tailored to reorganize specific brain circuits. We review current approaches to brain repair after stroke and present our new model, and discuss the biological foundations, rationales, and data to support our novel approach to upper-extremity and language rehabilitation. We believe that by enhancing plasticity at the level of brain network interactions, this neurological model for brain repair could ultimately lead to a cure for stroke. Read more