BACKGROUND: In animal stroke models, peri-infarct cortical stimulation (CS) combined with rehabilitative reach training (RT) enhances motor functional outcome and cortical reorganization, compared with RT alone. It was unknown whether the effects of CS + RT (a) persist long after treatment, (b) can be enhanced by forcing greater use of the paretic limb, and (C) vary with treatment onset time.
OBJECTIVE: To test the endurance, time sensitivity, and the potential for augmentation by forced forelimb use of CS + RT treatment effects following ischemic stroke.
METHODS: Adult rats that were proficient in skilled reaching received unilateral ischemic motor cortical lesions. RT was delivered for 3 weeks alone or concurrently with 100-Hz cathodal epidural CS, delivered at 50% of movement thresholds. In study 1, this treatment was initiated at 14 days postinfarct, with some subgroups receiving an overlapping period of continuous constraint of the nonparetic forelimb to force use of the paretic limb. The function of the paretic limb was assessed weekly for 9 to 10 months posttreatment. In study 2, rats underwent CS, RT, and the combination during the chronic postinfarct period.
RESULTS: Early onset CS + RT resulted in greater functional improvements than RT alone. The CS-related gains persisted for 9 to 10 months posttreatment and were not significantly influenced by forced use of the paretic limb. When treatment onset was delayed until 3 months post-infarct, RT alone improved function, but CS + RT was no more effective than RT alone.
CONCLUSION: CS can enhance the persistence, as well as the magnitude of RT-driven functional improvements, but its effectiveness in doing so may vary with time postinfarct.
- Brain Ischemia/complications
- Combined Modality Therapy
- Disease Models, Animal
- Electric Stimulation Therapy/methods
- Exercise Therapy/methods
- Motor Cortex/physiopathology
- Rats, Long-Evans
- Stroke Rehabilitation
- Time Factors