Trail Making Test Elucidates Neural Substrates of Specific Poststroke Executive Dysfunctions
Background and Purpose—Poststroke cognitive impairment is typified by prominent deficits in processing speed and executive function. However, the underlying neuroanatomical substrates of executive deficits are not well understood, and further elucidation is needed. There may be utility in fractionating executive functions to delineate neural substrates.
Methods—One test amenable to fine delineation is the Trail Making Test (TMT), which emphasizes processing speed (TMT-A) and set shifting (TMT-B-A difference, proportion, quotient scores, and TMT-B set-shifting errors). The TMT was administered to 2 overt ischemic stroke cohorts from a multinational study: (1) a chronic stroke cohort (N=61) and (2) an acute–subacute stroke cohort (N=45). Volumetric quantification of ischemic stroke and white matter hyperintensities was done on magnetic resonance imaging, along with ratings of involvement of cholinergic projections, using the previously published cholinergic hyperintensities projections scale. Damage to the superior longitudinal fasciculus, which colocalizes with some cholinergic projections, was also documented.
Results—Multiple linear regression analyses were completed. Although larger infarcts (β=0.37, P<0.0001) were associated with slower processing speed, cholinergic hyperintensities projections scale severity (β=0.39, P<0.0001) was associated with all metrics of set shifting. Left superior longitudinal fasciculus damage, however, was only associated with the difference score (β=0.17, P=0.03). These findings were replicated in both cohorts. Patients with ≥2 TMT-B set-shifting errors also had greater cholinergic hyperintensities projections scale severity.
Conclusions—In this multinational stroke cohort study, damage to lateral cholinergic pathways and the superior longitudinal fasciculus emerged as significant neuroanatomical correlates for executive deficits in set shifting.
- cholinergic pathways
- executive functions
- processing speed
- set shifting
- superior longitudinal fasciculus
- Trail Making Test
- white matter hyperintensities
- Received May 1, 2015.
- Revision received July 13, 2015.
- Accepted August 6, 2015.
- © 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.