Dynamics of language reorganization after stroke

Dorothee Saur*, Rüdiger Lange, Annette Baumgaertner, Valeska Schraknepper, Klaus Willmes, Michel Rijntjes, Cornelius Weiller

*Corresponding author for this work
851 Citations (Scopus)


Previous functional imaging studies of chronic stroke patients with aphasia suggest that recovery of language occurs in a pre-existing, bilateral network with an upregulation of undamaged areas and a recruitment of perilesional tissue and homologue right language areas. The present study aimed at identifying the dynamics of reorganization in the language system by repeated functional MRI (fMRI) examinations with parallel language testing from the acute to the chronic stage. We examined 14 patients with aphasia due to an infarction of the left middle cerebral artery territory and an age-matched control group with an auditory comprehension task in an event-related design. Control subjects were scanned once, whereas patients were scanned repeatedly at three consecutive dates. All patients recovered clinically as shown by a set of aphasia tests. In the acute phase [mean: 1.8 days post-stroke (dps)], patients' group analysis showed little early activation of non-infarcted left-hemispheric language structures, while in the subacute phase (mean: 12.1 dps) a large increase of activation in the bilateral language network with peak activation in the right Broca-homologue (BHo) was observed. A direct comparison of both examinations revealed the strongest increase of activation in the right BHo and supplementary motor area (SMA). These upregulated areas also showed the strongest correlation between improved language function and increased activation (rBHo = 0.88, rSMA = 0.92). In the chronic phase (mean: 321 dps), a normalization of activation with a re-shift of peak activation to left-hemispheric language areas was observed, associated with further language improvement. The data suggest that brain reorganization during language recovery proceeds in three phases: a strongly reduced activation of remaining left language areas in the acute phase is followed by an upregulation with recruitment of homologue language zones, which correlates with language improvement. Thereafter, a normalization of activation is observed, possibly reflecting consolidation in the language system.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1371-1384
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 06.2006

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-07 Clinical Neurology Neurosurgery and Neuroradiology
  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience

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