Modifying brain activity on an individual basis to improve recovery after stroke

Impaired arm and hand function after stroke (~85% of stroke survivors in Canada) is linked to altered brain activity and overactive brain areas. Practicing a task drives changes in brain areas important for function. Changes in these brain areas lead to recovery. But, overactive brain areas impede recovery. We can temporarily turn down overactive areas with brain stimulation to aid recovery. By targeting general brain areas important for movement, this non-invasive, painless approach shows promise. Yet, its response is varied. We think this is because overactive brain areas differ across individuals after stroke. We will target brain areas for stimulation on an individual basis to improve effectiveness – an approach not yet taken. The proposed work will 1) determine areas for stimulation after stroke by examining brain activity on an individual basis, and 2) pair individualized stimulation with task practice to aid recovery after stroke. We will show that improvements in hand and arm function are maximized when stimulation is tailored to the individual. This work represents a critical step in improving interventions for stroke recovery, leading to improved daily function and better quality of life for Canadians living with stroke.