Smoothness metric during reach-to-grasp after stroke: Part 2. longitudinal association with motor impairment

Mique Saes, Mohamed Irfan Mohamed Refai, Joost van Kordelaar, Bouke Leonard Scheltinga, Bert-Jan F. van Beijnum, Hans B.J. Bussmann, Jaap Hilbert Buurke, Peter H. Veltink, Carel G.M. Meskers, Erwin E.H. van Wegen, Gert Kwakkel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The cause of smoothness deficits as a proxy for quality of movement post stroke is currently unclear. Previous simulation analyses showed that spectral arc length (SPARC) is a valid metric for investigating smoothness during a multi-joint goal-directed reaching task. The goal of this observational study was to investigate how SPARC values change over time, and whether SPARC is longitudinally associated with the recovery from motor impairments reflected by the Fugl-Meyer motor assessment of the upper extremity (FM-UE) in the first 6 months after stroke. Methods: Forty patients who suffered a first-ever unilateral ischemic stroke (22 males, aged 58.6 ± 12.5 years) with upper extremity paresis underwent kinematic and clinical measurements in weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, and 26 post stroke. Clinical measures included amongst others FM-UE. SPARC was obtained by three-dimensional kinematic measurements using an electromagnetic motion tracking system during a reach-to-grasp movement. Kinematic assessments of 12 healthy, age-matched individuals served as reference. Longitudinal linear mixed model analyses were performed to determine SPARC change over time, compare smoothness in patients with reference values of healthy individuals, and establish the longitudinal association between SPARC and FM-UE scores. Results: SPARC showed a significant positive longitudinal association with FM-UE (B: 31.73, 95%-CI: [27.27 36.20], P < 0.001), which encompassed significant within- and between-subject effects (B: 30.85, 95%-CI: [26.28 35.41], P < 0.001 and B: 50.59, 95%-CI: [29.97 71.21], P < 0.001, respectively). Until 5 weeks post stroke, progress of time contributed significantly to the increase in SPARC and FM-UE scores (P < 0.05), whereafter they levelled off. At group level, smoothness was lower in patients who suffered a stroke compared to healthy subjects at all time points (P < 0.05). Conclusions: The present findings show that, after stroke, recovery of smoothness in a multi-joint reaching task and recovery from motor impairments are longitudinally associated and follow a similar time course. This suggests that the reduction of smoothness deficits quantified by SPARC is a proper objective reflection of recovery from motor impairment, as reflected by FM-UE, probably driven by a common underlying process of spontaneous neurological recovery early post stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2021


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