The first objective of the study was to determine whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal was correlated with motor performance at different stages of poststroke recovery. The second objective was to assess the existence of prognostic factors for recovery in early functional MR images. Eight right-handed patients with pure motor deficit secondary to a first lacunar infarct localized on the pyramidal tract were included. This study concerned moderately impaired patients and recovery of handgrip strength and finger-tapping speed. The fMRI task was a calibrated flexion–extension movement. Ten healthy subjects served as a control group. The intensity of the activation in the “classical” motor network (ipsilesional S1M1, ipsilesional ventral premotor cortex [BA 6], contralesional cerebellum) 20 days after stroke was indicative of the performance (positive correlation). The cluster in M1 was posterior and circumscribed to BA 4p. No area was associated with bad performance (negative correlation). No correlation was found 4 and 12 months after stroke. Prognosis factors were evidenced. The higher early the activation in the ipsilesional M1 (BA 4p), S1, and insula, the better the recovery 1 year after stroke. Although the lesions partly deefferented the primary motor cortex, patients who activated the posterior primary motor cortex early had a better recovery of hand function. This suggests that there is benefit in increasing ipsilesional M1 activity shortly after stroke as a rehabilitative approach in mildly impaired patients.

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