Neural correlates of within-session practice effects in mild motor impairment after stroke: a preliminary investigation

Elizabeth Regan, Julius Fridriksson, Sydney Y. Schaefer, Chris Rorden, Leonardo Bonilha, Jennapher Lingo VanGilder, Jill Campbell Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While the structural integrity of the corticospinal tract (CST) has been shown to support motor performance after stroke, the neural correlates of within-session practice effects are not known. The purpose of this preliminary investigation was to examine the structural brain correlates of within-session practice effects on a functional motor task completed with the more impaired arm after stroke. Eleven individuals with mild motor impairment (mean age 57.0 ± 9.4 years, mean months post-stroke 37.0 ± 66.1, able to move ≥ 26 blocks on the Box and Blocks Test) due to left hemisphere stroke completed structural MRI and practiced a functional motor task that involved spooning beans from a start cup to three distal targets. Performance on the motor task improved with practice (p = 0.004), although response was variable. Baseline motor performance (Block 1) correlated with integrity of the CST (r = − 0.696) while within-session practice effects (change from Block 1 to Block 3) did not. Instead, practice effects correlated with degree of lesion to the superior longitudinal fasciculus (r = 0.606), a pathway that connects frontal and parietal brain regions previously shown to support motor learning. This difference between white matter tracts associated with baseline motor performance and within-session practice effects may have implications for understanding response to motor practice and the application of brain-focused intervention approaches aimed at improving hand function after stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Diffusion imaging
  • Motor practice
  • Stroke
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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