Alterations in motor modules and their contribution to limitations in force control in the upper extremity after stroke

Gang Seo, Sang Wook Lee, Randall F. Beer, Amani Alamri, Yi Ning Wu, Preeti Raghavan, William Z. Rymer, Jinsook Roh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The generation of isometric force at the hand can be mediated by activating a few motor modules. Stroke induces alterations in motor modules underlying steady-state isometric force generation in the human upper extremity (UE). However, how the altered motor modules impact task performance (force production) remains unclear as stroke survivors develop and converge to the three-dimensional (3D) target force. Thus, we tested whether stroke-specific motor modules would be activated from the onset of force generation and also examined how alterations in motor modules would induce changes in force representation. During 3D isometric force development, electromyographic (EMG) signals were recorded from eight major elbow and shoulder muscles in the paretic arm of 10 chronic hemispheric stroke survivors and both arms of six age-matched control participants. A non-negative matrix factorization algorithm identified motor modules in four different time windows: three “exploratory” force ramping phases (Ramps 1–3; 0–33%, 33–67%, and 67–100% of target force magnitude, respectively) and the stable force match phase (Hold). Motor module similarity and between-force coupling were examined by calculating the scalar product and Pearson correlation across the phases. To investigate the association between the end-point force representation and the activation of the motor modules, principal component analysis (PCA) and multivariate multiple linear regression analyses were applied. In addition, the force components regressed on the activation profiles of motor modules were utilized to model the feasible force direction. Both stroke and control groups developed exploratory isometric forces with a non-linear relationship between EMG and force. During the force matching, only the stroke group showed abnormal between-force coupling in medial-lateral and backward-forward and medial-lateral and downward-upward directions. In each group, the same motor modules, including the abnormal deltoid module in stroke survivors, were expressed from the beginning of force development instead of emerging during the force exploration. The PCA and the multivariate multiple linear regression analyses showed that alterations in motor modules were associated with abnormal between-force coupling and limited feasible force direction after stroke. Overall, these results suggest that alterations in intermuscular coordination contribute to the abnormal end-point force control under isometric conditions in the UE after stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number937391
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 28 2022


  • feasible force direction
  • intermuscular coordination
  • isometric force generation
  • motor module
  • muscle synergy
  • stroke
  • upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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