Coupling of shoulder joint torques in individuals with chronic stroke mirrors controls, with additional non-load-dependent negative effects in a combined-torque task

Joseph V. Kopke, Levi J. Hargrove, Michael D. Ellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: After stroke, motor control is often negatively affected, leaving survivors with less muscle strength and coordination, increased tone, and abnormal synergies (coupled joint movements) in their affected upper extremity. Humeral internal and external rotation have been included in definitions of abnormal synergy but have yet to be studied in-depth. Objective: Determine the ability to generate internal and external rotation torque under different shoulder abduction and adduction loads in persons with chronic stroke (paretic and non-paretic arm) and uninjured controls. Methods: 24 participants, 12 with impairments after stroke and 12 controls, completed this study. A robotic device controlled abduction and adduction loading to 0, 25, and 50% of maximum strength in each direction. Once established against the vertical load, each participant generated maximum internal and external rotation torque in a dual-task paradigm. Four linear mixed-effects models tested the effect of group (control, non-paretic, and paretic), load (0, 25, 50% adduction or abduction), and their interaction on task performance; one model was created for each combination of dual-task directions (external or internal rotation during abduction or adduction). The protocol was then modeled using OpenSim to understand and explain the role of biomechanical (muscle action) constraints on task performance. Results: Group was significant in all task combinations. Paretic arms were less able to generate internal and external rotation during abduction and adduction, respectively. There was a significant effect of load in three of four load/task combinations for all groups. Load-level and group interactions were not significant, indicating that abduction and adduction loading affected each group in a similar manner. OpenSim musculoskeletal modeling mirrored the experimental results of control and non-paretic arms and also, when adjusted for weakness, paretic arm performance. Simulations incorporating increased co-activation mirrored the drop in performance observed across all dual-tasks in paretic arms. Conclusion: Common biomechanical constraints (muscle actions) explain limitations in external and internal rotation strength during adduction and abduction dual-tasks, respectively. Additional non-load-dependent effects such as increased antagonist co-activation (hypertonia) may cause the observed decreased performance in individuals with stroke. The inclusion of external rotation in flexion synergy and of internal rotation in extension synergy may be over-simplifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number134
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Hemiparesis
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder
  • Strength
  • Stroke
  • Synergy
  • Weakness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Rehabilitation


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