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The impact of lesion side on bilateral upper limb coordination after stroke.

BACKGROUND: A stroke frequently results in impaired performance of activities of daily life. Many of these are highly dependent on effective coordination between the two arms. In the context of bimanual movements, cyclic rhythmical bilateral arm coordination patterns can be classified into two fundamental modes: in-phase (bilateral homologous muscles contract simultaneously) and anti-phase (bilateral muscles contract alternately) movements. We aimed to investigate how patients with left (LHS) and right (RHS) hemispheric stroke are differentially affected in both individual-limb control and inter-limb coordination during bilateral movements.

METHODS: We used kinematic measurements to assess bilateral coordination abilities of 18 chronic hemiparetic stroke patients (9 LHS; 9 RHS) and 18 age- and sex-matched controls. Using KINARM upper-limb exoskeleton system, we examined individual-limb control by quantifying trajectory variability in each hand and inter-limb coordination by computing the phase synchronization between hands during anti- and in-phase movements.

RESULTS: RHS patients exhibited greater impairment in individual- and inter-limb control during anti-phase movements, whilst LHS patients showed greater impairment in individual-limb control during in-phase movements alone. However, LHS patients further showed a swap in hand dominance during in-phase movements.

CONCLUSIONS: The current study used individual-limb and inter-limb kinematic profiles and showed that bilateral movements are differently impaired in patients with left vs. right hemispheric strokes. Our results demonstrate that both fundamental bilateral coordination modes are differently controlled in both hemispheres using a lesion model approach. From a clinical perspective, we suggest that lesion side should be taken into account for more individually targeted bilateral coordination training strategies.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: the current experiment is not a health care intervention study.

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