Background: Fine tactile sensation plays an important role in motor relearning after stroke. However, little is known about its dynamics in post-stroke recovery, principally due to a lack of effective evaluation on neural responses to fine tactile stimulation. This study investigated the post-stroke alteration of cortical connectivity and its functional structure in response to fine tactile stimulation via textile fabrics by electroencephalogram (EEG)-derived functional connectivity and graph theory analyses.
Method: Whole brain EEG was recorded from 64 scalp channels in 8 participants with chronic stroke and 8 unimpaired controls before and during the skin of the unilateral forearm contacted with a piece of cotton fabric. Functional connectivity (FC) was then estimated using EEG coherence. The fabric stimulation induced FC (SFC) was analyzed by a cluster-based permutation test for the FC in baseline and fabric stimulation. The functional structure of connectivity alteration in the brain was also investigated by assessing the multiscale topological properties of functional brain networks according to the graph theory.
Results: In the SFC distribution, an altered hemispheric lateralization (HL) (HL degree, 14%) was observed when stimulating the affected forearm in the stroke group, compared to stimulation of the unaffected forearm of the stroke group (HL degree, 53%) and those of the control group (HL degrees, 92% for the left and 69% for the dominant right limb). The involvement of additional brain regions, i.e., the distributed attention networks, was also observed when stimulating either limb of the stroke group compared with those of the control. Significantly increased (P < 0.05) global and local efficiencies were found when stimulating the affected forearm compared to the unaffected forearm. A significantly increased (P < 0.05) degree of inter-hemisphere FC (interdegree) mainly within ipsilesional somatosensory region and a significantly diminished degree of intra-hemisphere FC (intradegree) (P < 0.05) in ipsilesional primary somatosensory region were observed when stimulating the affected forearm, compared with the unaffected forearm.
Conclusions: The alteration of cortical connectivity in fine tactile sensation post-stroke was characterized by the compensation from the contralesional hemisphere and distributed attention networks related to involuntary attention. The interhemispheric connectivity could implement the compensation from the contralateral hemisphere to the ipsilesional somatosensory region. Stroke participants also exerted increased cortical activities in fine tactile sensation.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Health Informatics
- Fine tactile sensation
- Functional brain network
- Functional connectivity
- Sensory impairment