Moderate intensity aerobic exercise may enhance neuroplasticity of the contralesional hemisphere after stroke: a randomised controlled study

Gabrielle Hill, Finn Johnson, Jeric Uy, Ines Serrada, Beben Benyamin, Maayken Van Den Berg, Brenton Hordacre

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Upregulation of neuroplasticity might help maximize stroke recovery. One intervention that appears worthy of investigation is aerobic exercise. This study aimed to determine whether a single bout of moderate intensity aerobic exercise can enhance neuroplasticity in people with stroke. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to a 20-min moderate intensity exercise intervention or remained sedentary (control). Transcranial magnetic stimulation measured corticospinal excitability of the contralesional hemisphere by recording motor evoked potentials (MEPs). Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation (iTBS) was used to repetitively activate synapses in the contralesional primary motor cortex, initiating the early stages of neuroplasticity and increasing excitability. It was surmised that if exercise increased neuroplasticity, there would be a greater facilitation of MEPs following iTBS. Thirty-three people with stroke participated in this study (aged 63.87 ± 10.30 years, 20 male, 6.13 ± 4.33 years since stroke). There was an interaction between Time*Group on MEP amplitudes (P = 0.009). Participants allocated to aerobic exercise had a stronger increase in MEP amplitude following iTBS. A non-significant trend indicated time since stroke might moderate this interaction (P = 0.055). Exploratory analysis suggested participants who were 2–7.5 years post stroke had a strong MEP facilitation following iTBS (P < 0.001). There was no effect of age, sex, resting motor threshold, self-reported physical activity levels, lesion volume or weighted lesion load (all P > 0.208). Moderate intensity cycling may enhance neuroplasticity in people with stroke. This therapy adjuvant could provide opportunities to maximize stroke recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14440
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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