Academic Editor: Pietro Caliandro
Background: The bimodal balance-recovery model predicts that corticospinal tract (CST) integrity in the affected hemisphere influences the partterns of brain recovery after stroke. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been used to promote functional recovery of stroke patients by modulating motor cortical excitability and inducing reorganization of neural networks. This study aimed to explore how to optimize the efficiency of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to promote upper limb functional recovery after stroke according to bimodal balance-recovery model. Methods: 60 patients who met the inclusion criteria were enrolled to high CST integrity group (n = 30) or low CST integrity group (n = 30), and further assigned randomly to receive high-frequency rTMS (HF-rTMS), low-frequency rTMS (LF-rTMS) or sham rTMS in addition to routine rehabilitation, with 10 patients in each group. Outcome measures included Fugl-Meyer scale for upper extremity (FMA-UE), Wolf Motor Function (WMFT) scale and Modified Barthel Index (MBI) scale which were evaluated at baseline and after 21 days of treatment. Results: For patients with high CST integrity, the LF group achieved higher FMA-UE, WMFT and MBI scores improvements after treatment when compared to the HF group and sham group. For patients with low CST integrity, after 21 days treatment, only the HF group showed significant improvements in FMA-UE and WMFT scores. For MBI assessment, the HF group revealed significantly better improvements than the LF group and sham group. Conclusions: For stroke patients with high CST integrity, low-frequency rTMS is superior to high-frequency rTMS in promoting upper limb motor function recovery. However, only high-frequency rTMS can improve upper limb motor function of stroke patients with low CST integrity.