Background and Purpose: Sleep has been shown to promote off-line motor learning in individuals following stroke. Executive function ability has been shown to be a predictor of participation in rehabilitation and motor recovery following stroke. The purpose of this study was to explore the association between executive function and off-line motor learning in individuals with chronic stroke compared to healthy control participants.
Methods: Seventeen individuals with chronic stroke (> 6 months post stroke) and nine healthy adults were included in the study. Participants underwent three consecutive nights of polysomnography (PSG), practiced a continuous tracking task (CTT) the morning of the third day, and underwent a retention test the morning after the third night. Participants underwent testing on four executive function tests after the CTT retention test.
Results: Stroke participants showed a significant positive correlation between the off-line motor learning score and performance on the Trail Making Test (TMT D-KEFS) (r= .652 p= .005), while the healthy controls did not. Regression analysis showed that the TMT D-KEFS is a significant predictor of off-line motor learning (p= .008).
Discussion and Conclusions: This is the first study to demonstrate that better performance on an executive function test of attention and set-shifting predicts a higher magnitude of off-line motor learning in individuals with chronic stroke. This emphasizes the need to consider attention and set-shifting abilities of individuals following stroke as these abilities predict off-line motor learning. This in turn could affect learning of ADL’s and impact functional recovery following stroke.
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