The Upper Extremity Flexion Synergy Is Minimally Expressed in Young Individuals With Unilateral Cerebral Palsy Following an Early Brain Injury

Nayo M. Hill, Julius P.A. Dewald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hemiparetic stroke in adulthood often results in the grouped movement pattern of the upper extremity flexion synergy thought to arise from an increased reliance on cortico-reticulospinal pathways due to a loss of lateral corticospinal projections. It is well established that the flexion synergy induces reaching constraints in individuals with adult-onset hemiplegia. The expression of the flexion synergy in individuals with brain injuries onset earlier in the lifespan is currently unknown. An early unilateral brain injury occurring prior to six months post full-term may preserve corticospinal projections which can be used for independent joint control and thus minimizing the expression of the flexion synergy. This study uses kinematics of a ballistic reaching task to evaluate the expression of the flexion synergy in individuals with pediatric hemiplegia (PH) ages six to seventeen years. Fifteen individuals with brain injuries before birth (n = 8) and around full-term (n = 7) and nine age-matched controls with no known neurological impairment completed a set of reaches in an admittance controlled robotic device. Descending drive, and the possible expression of the upper extremity flexion synergy, was modulated by increasing shoulder abduction loading. Individuals with early-onset PH achieved lower peak velocities when reaching with the paretic arm compared to controls; however, no differences in reaching distance were found between groups. Relative maintenance in reaching seen in individuals with early brain injuries highlights minimal expression of the flexion synergy. We interpret this conservation of independent control of the paretic shoulder and elbow as the use of more direct corticospinal projections instead of indirect cortico-reticulospinal pathways used in individuals with adult-onset hemiplegia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number590198
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 16 2020

Keywords

  • cerebral palsy
  • flexion synergy
  • independent joint control
  • pediatric hemiparesis
  • perinatal stroke
  • reaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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