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Exp Brain Res. 2000 Feb;130(4):441-52.

Causes of left-right ball inaccuracy in overarm throws made by cerebellar patients.

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Physiology Department, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


Cerebellar patients throw inaccurately in the left-right direction but the cause of this multijoint ataxia is unclear. We tested whether it was due, as originally proposed, to variable left-right directions of the hand path, or, alternatively, to variable timing of ball release occurring on a right to left curved hand path. We also examined the cause of the variability in hand path direction per se. Six right-handed cerebellar patients and six control subjects were instructed to throw tennis balls at a slow, medium and fast speed from a seated position while angular positions in 3D of five arm segments were recorded at 1000 Hz with the search-coil technique. Compared to controls, cerebellar patients threw slower and less accurately, had more variable timing of ball release occurring on a right to left curved hand path and had more variable left-right directions of hand paths at a fixed point in front of the sternum. In all cerebellar patients, ball left-right inaccuracy was related both to timing of ball release and to hand path direction at the fixed point. The cause of the increased variability in hand path direction varied between patients and could not be explained by disorder in a single joint rotation. No evidence was found that it resulted from variable stabilization at the shoulder during elbow extension. Instead, the more variable left-right direction of the hand path was related to the initial pattern of joint rotations occurring early in the throw before the onset of elbow extension, and to the amplitudes of radioulnar pronation and wrist abduction occurring late in the throw. The results emphasize that in the presence of a cerebellar lesion, ball left-right inaccuracy in overarm throws cannot be explained by a single disorder. Rather ball inaccuracy was likely due to disorders in central commands to proximal joint rotations that produced the hand path and in central commands to distal joints that controlled the timing of finger opening.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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