Stroke, cognitive deficits, and rehabilitation: still an incomplete picture


Correspondence: Toby B. Cumming, Florey Neuroscience Institutes, 245 Burgundy St, Heidelberg, Melbourne, Vic. 3084, Australia.



Cognitive impairment after stroke is common and can cause disability with major impacts on quality of life and independence. There are also indirect effects of cognitive impairment on functional recovery after stroke through reduced participation in rehabilitation and poor adherence to treatment guidelines. In this article, we attempt to establish the following: ● whether there is a distinct profile of cognitive impairment after stroke; ● whether the type of cognitive deficit can be associated with the features of stroke-related damage; and ● whether interventions can improve poststroke cognitive performance. There is not a consistent profile of cognitive deficits in stroke, though slowed information processing and executive dysfunction tend to predominate. Our understanding of structure–function relationships has been advanced using imaging techniques such as lesion mapping and will be further enhanced through better characterization of damage to functional networks and identification of subtle white matter abnormalities. Effective cognitive rehabilitation approaches have been reported for focal cortical deficits such as neglect and aphasia, but treatments for more diffusely represented cognitive impairment remain elusive. In the future, the hope is that different techniques that have been shown to promote neural plasticity (e.g., exercise, brain stimulation, and pharmacological agents) can be applied to improve the cognitive function of stroke survivors.