Robot-aided developmental assessment of wrist proprioception in children

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2017 Jan 9;14(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12984-016-0215-9.


Background: Several neurodevelopmental disorders and brain injuries in children have been associated with proprioceptive dysfunction that will negatively affect their movement. Unfortunately, there is lack of reliable and objective clinical examination protocols and our current knowledge of how proprioception evolves in typically developing children is still sparse.

Methods: Using a robotic exoskeleton, we investigated proprioceptive acuity of the wrist in a group of 49 typically developing healthy children (8-15 years), and a group of 40 young adults. Without vision participants performed an ipsilateral wrist joint position matching task that required them to reproduce (match) a previously experienced target position. All three joint degrees-of-freedom of the wrist/hand complex were assessed. Accuracy and precision were evaluated as a measure of proprioceptive acuity. The cross-sectional data indicating the time course of development of acuity were then fitted by four models in order to determine which function best describes developmental changes in proprioception across age.

Results: First, the robot-aided assessment proved to be an easy to administer method for objectively measuring proprioceptive acuity in both children and adult populations. Second, proprioceptive acuity continued to develop throughout middle childhood and early adolescence, improving by more than 50% with respect to the youngest group. Adult levels of performance were reached approximately by the age of 12 years. An inverse-root function best described the development of proprioceptive acuity across the age groups. Third, wrist/forearm proprioception is anisotropic across the three DoFs with the Abduction/Adduction exhibiting a higher level of acuity than those of Flexion/extension and Pronation/Supination. This anisotropy did not change across development.

Conclusions: Proprioceptive development for the wrist continues well into early adolescence. Our normative data obtained trough this novel robot-aided assessment method provide a basis against which proprioceptive function of pediatric population can be compared. This may aid the design of more effective sensorimotor intervention programs.

Keywords: Children; Developmental changes; Joint position matching; Proprioception; Robot-aided assessment; Wrist joint.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Robotics / instrumentation
  • Robotics / methods*
  • Wrist Joint / physiology*
  • Young Adult