Background: Extensive neuromotor development occurs early in human life, and the timing of brain injury may affect the resulting motor impairment. In Part I of this series, it was demonstrated that the distribution of weakness in the upper extremity depended on the timing of brain injury in individuals with childhood-onset hemiparesis.
Objective: The goal of this study was to characterize how timing of brain injury affects joint torque synergies, or losses of independent joint control.
Method: Twenty-four individuals with hemiparesis were divided into 3 groups based on the timing of their injury: before birth (PRE-natal, n = 8), around the time of birth (PERI-natal, n = 8), and after 6 months of age (POST-natal, n = 8). Individuals with hemiparesis and 8 typically developing peers participated in maximal isometric shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger torque generation tasks while their efforts were recorded by a multiple degree-of-freedom load cell. Motor output in 4 joints of the upper extremity was concurrently measured during 8 primary torque generation tasks to quantify joint torque synergies.
Results: There were a number of significant coupling patterns identified in individuals with hemiparesis that differed from the typically developing group. POST-natal differences were most noted in the coupling of shoulder abductors with elbow, wrist, and finger flexors, while the PRE-natal group demonstrated significant distal joint coupling with elbow flexion.
Conclusion: The torque synergies measured provide indirect evidence for the use of bulbospinal pathways in the POST-natal group, while those with earlier injury may use relatively preserved ipsilateral corticospinal motor pathways.
Keywords: cerebral palsy; childhood hemiparesis; childhood hemiplegia; independent joint control; selective motor control.