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Therapy-related reorganization of language in both hemispheres of patients with chronic aphasia
PULVERMULLER, F., HAUK, O., Zohsel, K., Neininger, B. & MOHR, B.
Neuroimage, 28(2), 481-489
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The brain processes of language recovery after stroke are poorly understood, partly because past research did not allow to differentiate the effects of spontaneous restitution processes from those of learning-related cortical reorganization. Here, we use a new approach offered by recently developed intense neuropsychological therapy methods, which allow for improving language functions within a short time period. Stroke patients with chronic aphasia received intense language therapy for 2 weeks and, over this period, improved their language performance as assessed using clinical tests. Neurophysiological activity elicited by words and pseudowords was measured before and after treatment. Over the therapy interval, early word evoked potentials (latency 250-300 ms) became significantly stronger whereas pseudoword responses did not change. Word-specific changes were documented by analyses of ERP amplitudes and root mean square values, which revealed interactions of the factors Assessment time (before vs. after therapy) and Wordness (word vs. pseudoword). Source localization using Minimum Norm Current Estimates showed that bilateral cortical sources activated by word stimuli contributed to the change, suggesting that neuronal networks distributed over both hemispheres are the substrate of cortical reorganization of language processing in intense aphasia therapy. Word-evoked differences in source strengths were significantly correlated with performance on a clinical language test, demonstrating a link between behavioral and neurophysiological changes. We suggest that the early word-evoked negativity might represent an index of reorganization of language after stroke and thus an aphasia recovery potential.