The Cognitive Neuroplasticity of Reading Recovery following Chronic Stroke: A Representational Similarity Analysis Approach
Damage to certain left hemisphere regions leads to reading impairments, at least acutely, though some individuals eventually recover reading. Previous neuroimaging studies have shown a relationship between reading recovery and increases in contralesional and perilesional activation during word reading tasks, relative to controls. Questions remain about how to interpret these changes in activation. Do these changes reflect functional take-over, a reorganization of functions in the damaged brain? Or do they reveal compensatory masquerade or the use of alternative neural pathways to reading that are available in both patients and controls? We address these questions by studying a single individual, CH, who has made a partial recovery of reading familiar words following stroke. We use an fMRI analysis technique, representational similarity analysis (RSA), which allows us to decode cognitive function from distributed patterns of neural activity. Relative to controls, we find that CH shows a shift from visual to orthographic processing in contralesional regions, with a marginally significant result in perilesional regions as well. This pattern supports a contralesional reorganization of orthographic processing following stroke. More generally, these analyses demonstrate how powerful RSA can be for mapping the neural plasticity of language function.