Background and Purpose: Changes in connectivity of white matter fibers remote to a stroke lesion, suggestive of structural connectional diaschisis, may impact on clinical impairment and recovery after stroke. However, until recently, we have not had tract-specific techniques to map changes in white matter tracts in vivo in humans to enable investigation of potential mechanisms and clinical impact of such remote changes. Our aim was to identify and quantify white matter tracts that are affected remote from a stroke lesion and to investigate the associations between reductions in tract-specific connectivity and impaired touch discrimination function after stroke. Methods: We applied fixel-based analysis to diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data from 37 patients with stroke (right lesion =16; left lesion =21) and 26 age-matched healthy adults. Three quantitative metrics were compared between groups: fiber density; fiber-bundle cross-section; and a combined measure of both (fiber-bundle cross-section) that reflects axonal structural connectivity. Results: Compared with healthy adults, patients with stroke showed significant common fiber-bundle cross-section and fiber density reductions in 4 regions remote from focal lesions that play roles in somatosensory and spatial information processing. Structural connectivity along the somatosensory fibers of the lesioned hemisphere was correlated with contralesional hand touch function. Touch function of the ipsilesional hand was associated with connectivity of the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and, for the right-lesion group, the corpus callosum. Conclusions: Remote tract-specific reductions in axonal connectivity indicated by diffusion imaging measures are observed in the somatosensory network after stroke. These remote white matter connectivity reductions, indicative of structural connectional diaschisis, are associated with touch impairment in patients with stroke.
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