Between Limb Muscle Co-activation Patterns in the Paretic Arm During Non-paretic Arm Tasks in Hemiparetic Cerebral Palsy

Nayo M. Hill, Theresa Sukal-Moulton, Julius P.A. Dewald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tasks of daily life require the independent use of the arms and hands. Individuals with hemiparetic cerebral palsy (HCP) often experience difficulty with fine motor tasks demonstrating mirrored movements between the arms. In this study, bilateral muscle activations were quantified during single arm isometric maximum efforts and submaximal reaching tasks. The magnitude and direction of mirrored activation was examined in 14 individuals with HCP and 9 age-matched controls. Participants generated maximum voluntary torques (MVTs) in five different directions and completed ballistic reaches while producing up to 80% of shoulder abduction MVT. Electromyography (EMG) signals were recorded from six upper extremity muscles bilaterally. Participants with HCP demonstrated more mirrored activation when volitionally contracting the non-paretic (NP) arm than the paretic arm (F = 83.543, p < 0.001) in isometric efforts. Increased EMG activation during reach acceleration resulted in a larger increase in rest arm co-activation when reaching with the NP arm compared to the paretic arm in the HCP group (t = 8.425, p < 0.001). Mirrored activation is more pronounced when driving the NP arm and scales with effort level. This directionality of mirroring is indicative of the use of ipsilaterally terminating projections of the corticospinal tract (CST) originating in the non-lesioned hemisphere. Peripheral measures of muscle activation provide insight into the descending pathways available for control of the upper extremity after early unilateral brain injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number666697
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 29 2021


  • cerebral palsy
  • childhood hemiplegia
  • mirror movements
  • muscle co-activation
  • perinatal stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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