The brain's recovery and its ability to communicate after a stroke have led scientists to give hope to patients.
The study using neuroimaging of stroke patients struggling to regain ability to communicate found that brain cells outside the damaged area could take on new roles.
Julius Fridriksson of the University of South Carolina said the findings offer hope to patients of "chronic stroke," characterized by the death of cells in a specific area of the brain.
"For years, we heard little about stroke recovery because it was believed that very little could be done.
"But this study shows that the adult brain is quite capable of changing, and we are able to see those images now. This will substantially change the treatment for chronic-stroke patients," said Fridriksson.
The study involved 26 patients with aphasia, a communication disorder caused by damage to the language regions in the brain's left hemisphere.
Stroke patients underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging test, also called fMRI, which measures brain activity.
Patients received multiple MRI sessions before and after undergoing 30 hours of traditional speech therapy used to improve communication function in patients with aphasia.
By using fMRI Fridriksson was able to see the healthy areas of the brain that "take over" the functions of the areas damaged as a result of a stroke.
"The areas that are immediately around the section of the brain that was damaged become more 'plastic.'
"This 'plasticity,' so to speak, increases around the brain lesions and supports recovery. In patients who responded well with the treatment for anomia [difficulty in recalling words and names], their fMRI showed evidence that areas of the brain took over the function of the damaged cells," said Fridriksson.
The findings were reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.