Computational Modeling of Resting State Activity demonstrates Markers of Normalcy in Children with Pre- or Perinatal Stroke
Children who sustain a prenatal or perinatal brain injury in the form of a stroke develop remarkably normal cognitive functions in certain areas, with a particular strength in language skills. A dominant explanation for this is that brain regions from the contralesional hemisphere "take over" their functions, whereas the damaged areas and other ipsilesional regions play much less of a role. However, it is difficult to tease apart whether changes in neural activity after early brain injury are due to damage caused by the lesion or by processes related to postinjury reorganization. We sought to differentiate between these two causes by investigating the functional connectivity (FC) of brain areas during the resting state in human children with early brain injury using a computational model. We simulated a large-scale network consisting of realistic models of local brain areas coupled through anatomical connectivity information of healthy and injured participants. We then compared the resulting simulated FC values of healthy and injured participants with the empirical ones. We found that the empirical connectivity values, especially of the damaged areas, correlated better with simulated values of a healthy brain than those of an injured brain. This result indicates that the structural damage caused by an early brain injury is unlikely to have an adverse and sustained impact on the functional connections, albeit during the resting state, of damaged areas. Therefore, these areas could continue to play a role in the development of near-normal function in certain domains such as language in these children.