Increased links between language and motor areas: A proof-of-concept study on resting-state functional connectivity following Personalized Observation, Execution and Mental imagery therapy in chronic aphasia


A tight coupling of language and motor processes has been established, which is consistent with embodied cognition theory. However, very few therapies have been designed to exploit the synergy between motor and language processes to help rehabilitate people with aphasia (PWA). Moreover, the underlying mechanisms supporting the efficacy of such approaches remain unknown. Previous work in our laboratory has demonstrated that personalized observation, execution, and mental imagery therapy (POEM)-a new therapy using three sensorimotor strategies to trigger action verb naming-leads to significant improvements in verb retrieval in PWA. Moreover, these improvements were supported by significant activations in language and sensorimotor processing areas, which further reinforce the role of both processes in language recovery (Durand et al., 2018). The present study investigates resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) changes following POEM in a pre-/post-POEM therapy design. A whole brain network functional connectivity approach was used to assess and describe changes in rsFC in a group of four PWA, who were matched and compared with four healthy controls (HC). Results showed increased rsFC in PWA within and between visuo-motor and language areas (right cuneal cortex-left supracalcarin (SCC) cortex/right precentral gyrus (PreCG)-left lingual gyrus (LG)) and between areas involved in action processing (right anterior parahippocampal gyrus (aPaHC)-left superior parietal lobule (SPL). In comparison to HC, the PWA group showed increased rsFC between the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left thalamus, which are areas involved in lexico-semantic processing. This proof-of-concept study suggests that the sensorimotor and language strategies used in POEM may induce modifications in large-scale networks, probably derived from the integration of visual and sensorimotor systems to sustain action naming, which is consistent with the embodied cognition theory.

Brain and Cognition