Involuntary paretic wrist/finger flexion forces and EMG increase with shoulder abduction load in individuals with chronic stroke

Laura C. Miller, Julius P.A. Dewald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Objective: Clinical observations of the flexion synergy in individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke describe coupling of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger joints. Yet, experimental quantification of the synergy within a shoulder abduction (SABD) loading paradigm has focused only on shoulder and elbow joints. The paretic wrist and fingers have typically been studied in isolation. Therefore, this study quantified involuntary behavior of paretic wrist and fingers during concurrent activation of shoulder and elbow. Methods: Eight individuals with chronic moderate-to-severe hemiparesis and four controls participated. Isometric wrist/finger and thumb flexion forces and wrist/finger flexor and extensor electromyograms (EMG) were measured at two positions when lifting the arm: in front of the torso and at maximal reaching distance. The task was completed in the ACT 3D robotic device with six SABD loads by paretic, non-paretic, and control limbs. Results: Considerable forces and EMG were generated during lifting of the paretic arm only, and they progressively increased with SABD load. Additionally, the forces were greater at the maximal reach position than at the position front of the torso. Conclusions: Flexion of paretic wrist and fingers is involuntarily coupled with certain shoulder and elbow movements. Significance: Activation of the proximal upper limb must be considered when seeking to understand, rehabilitate, or develop devices to assist the paretic hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1216-1225
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Hand
  • Rehabilitation
  • Robotics
  • Stroke
  • Synergy
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)


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