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J Neurophysiol. 1995 Jan;73(1):347-60.

Impairments of reaching movements in patients without proprioception. I. Spatial errors.

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Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York.


1. This paper introduces a series of studies in which we analyze the impairments in a planar reaching task in human patients with severe proprioceptive deficits resulting from large-fiber sensory neuropathy. We studied three patients, all of whom showed absence of discriminative tactile sensation, position sense, and stretch reflexes in the upper extremities. Muscle strength was normal. We compared the reaching movements of the patients with those of normal control subjects. The purpose of this first paper was no characterize the spatial errors in these patients that result primarily from impairments in the planning and execution of movement rather than in feedback control. This was done by using a task in which visual feedback of errors during movement was prevented. 2. Subjects were instructed to move their hand from given starting positions of different targets on a horizontal digitizing tablet. Hand position and targets were displayed on a computer screen. Subjects could not see their hand, and the screen display of hand position was blanked at the signal to move. Thus visual feedback during movement could not be used to achieve accuracy. Movement paths were displayed as knowledge of results after each trial. 3. Compared with controls, the patients made large spatial errors in both movement direction and extent. Directional errors were evident from movement onset, suggesting that they resulted from improper planning. In addition, patients' hand paths showed large curves and secondary movements after initial stops. 4. The overall control strategy used by patients appeared the same as that used by controls. Hand trajectories were approximately bell shaped, and movement extent was controlled by scaling a trajectory waveform in amplitude and time. However, both control subjects and patients showed systematic errors in movement extent that depended on the direction of hand movement. In control subjects, these systematic dependencies of extent on direction were small, but in patients they produced large and prominent errors. Analysis of the hand trajectories revealed that errors were associated with differences in velocity and acceleration for movements in different directions. In an earlier study, we showed that in subjects with normal sensation that the dependence of acceleration and velocity on direction results from a failure to take the inertial properties of the limb into account in programming the initial trajectory. In control subjects, these differences in initial acceleration are partially compensated by direction-dependent variations in movement time.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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