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Background: Persistent motor impairment is common but highly heterogeneous poststroke. Genetic polymorphisms, including those identified on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF ) and apolipoprotein E ( APOE ) genes, may contribute to this variability by limiting the capacity for use-dependent neuroplasticity, and hence rehabilitation responsiveness. Objective: To determine whether BDNF and APOE genotypes influence motor improvement facilitated by poststroke upper-limb rehabilitation. Methods: BDNF-Val66Met and APOE isoform genotypes were determined using leukocyte DNA for 55 community-dwelling patients 2–123 months poststroke. All patients completed a dose-matched upper-limb rehabilitation program of either Wii-based Movement Therapy or Constraint-induced Movement Therapy. Upper-limb motor function was assessed pre- and post-therapy using a suite of functional measures. Results: Motor function improved for all patients post-therapy, with no difference between therapy groups. In the pooled data, there was no significant effect of BDNF or APOE genotype on motor function at baseline, or following the intervention. However, a significant interaction between the level of residual motor function and BDNF genotype was identified ( p = 0.029 ), whereby post-therapy improvement was significantly less for Met allele carriers with moderate and high, but not low motor function. There was no significant association between APOE genotype and therapy outcomes. Conclusion: This study identified a novel interaction between the BDNF-Val66Met polymorphism, motor-function status, and the magnitude of improvement with rehabilitation in chronic stroke. This polymorphism does not preclude, but may reduce, the magnitude of motor improvement with therapy, particularly for patients with higher, but not lower residual motor function. BDNF genotype should be considered in the design and interpretation of clinical trials.

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access


© 2016 Shiner, Pierce, Thompson-Butel, Trinh, Schofield and McNulty. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.