Objective To evaluate the sensitivity of measuring cognitive processing in the ocular motor system as a marker for recovery of deficit in post stroke patients.
Methods 15 patients (mean age 60.6 years, mean National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score 2.25) and 10 age matched control subjects (mean age 63.3 years) participated in the study. We included mildly affected acute stroke patients without a visual field defect or gaze palsy. Patients were examined at onset and at 1 month and 3 months post stroke by testing ocular motor function, NIHSS, modified Rankin Scale (mRS) and standard cognitive function assessments.
Results Significant differences were found in measures of ocular motor function between groups at stroke onset as well as between the first test and follow-up in patients. At 3 months, function had not returned to normal baseline. Ocular motor function was more sensitive in identifying cognitive dysfunction and improvement compared with NIHSS or mRS.
Conclusions Standard neurological assessments of stroke patients are weighted significantly towards motor and sensory function, underestimating cognitive deficits. Ocular motor assessment demonstrates cognitive effects of even mild stroke and may provide improved quantifiable measurements of cognitive recovery post stroke. We demonstrated abnormality in patients just after onset, extending beyond 3 months, when there was apparent full recovery of motor and sensory function, implying more widespread disruption of cognitive mechanisms, consistent with the subjective complaints received from patients. This may provide insight into cognitive rehabilitation strategies leading to improved functional outcomes.
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