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This article is the author's final published version in Neurology, Volume 100, Issue 20, 16 May 2023, Pages E2103 - E2113.

The published version is available at

Written work prepared by employees of the Federal Government as part of their official duties is, under the U.S. Copyright Act, a “work of the United States Government” for which copyright protection under Title 17 of the United States Code is not available.


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Functional outcomes after stroke are strongly related to focal injury measures. However, the role of global brain health is less clear. In this study, we examined the impact of brain age, a measure of neurobiological aging derived from whole-brain structural neuroimaging, on poststroke outcomes, with a focus on sensorimotor performance. We hypothesized that more lesion damage would result in older brain age, which would in turn be associated with poorer outcomes. Related, we expected that brain age would mediate the relationship between lesion damage and outcomes. Finally, we hypothesized that structural brain resilience, which we define in the context of stroke as younger brain age given matched lesion damage, would differentiate people with good vs poor outcomes.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional observational study using a multisite dataset of 3-dimensional brain structural MRIs and clinical measures from the ENIGMA Stroke Recovery. Brain age was calculated from 77 neuroanatomical features using a ridge regression model trained and validated on 4,314 healthy controls. We performed a 3-step mediation analysis with robust mixed-effects linear regression models to examine relationships between brain age, lesion damage, and stroke outcomes. We used propensity score matching and logistic regression to examine whether brain resilience predicts good vs poor outcomes in patients with matched lesion damage.

RESULTS: We examined 963 patients across 38 cohorts. Greater lesion damage was associated with older brain age (β = 0.21; 95% CI 0.04-0.38,

DISCUSSION: We provide evidence that younger brain age is associated with superior poststroke outcomes and modifies the impact of focal damage. The inclusion of imaging-based assessments of brain age and brain resilience may improve the prediction of poststroke outcomes compared with focal injury measures alone, opening new possibilities for potential therapeutic targets.

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