A novel tablet-based application for assessment of manual dexterity and its components: a reliability and validity study in healthy subjects

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2022 Mar 24;19(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s12984-022-01011-9.


Background: We developed five tablet-based tasks (applications) to measure multiple components of manual dexterity.

Aim: to test reliability and validity of tablet-based dexterity measures in healthy participants.

Methods: Tasks included: (1) Finger recognition to assess mental rotation capacity. The subject taps with the finger indicated on a virtual hand in three orientations (reaction time, correct trials). (2) Rhythm tapping to evaluate timing of finger movements performed with, and subsequently without, an auditory cue (inter-stimulus interval). (3) Multi-finger tapping to assess independent finger movements (reaction time, correct trials, unwanted finger movements). (4) Sequence tapping to assess production and memorization of visually cued finger sequences (successful taps). (5) Line-tracking to assess movement speed and accuracy while tracking an unpredictably moving line on the screen with the fingertip (duration, error). To study inter-rater reliability, 34 healthy subjects (mean age 35 years) performed the tablet tasks twice with two raters. Relative reliability (Intra-class correlation, ICC) and absolute reliability (Standard error of measurement, SEM) were established. Task validity was evaluated in 54 healthy subjects (mean age 49 years, range: 20-78 years) by correlating tablet measures with age, clinical dexterity assessments (time taken to pick-up objects in Box and Block Test, BBT and Moberg Pick Up Test, MPUT) and with measures obtained using a finger force-sensor device.

Results: Most timing measures showed excellent reliability. Poor to excellent reliability was found for correct trials across tasks, and reliability was poor for unwanted movements. Inter-session learning occurred in some measures. Age correlated with slower and more variable reaction times in finger recognition, less correct trials in multi-finger tapping, and slower line-tracking. Reaction times correlated with those obtained using a finger force-sensor device. No significant correlations between tablet measures and BBT or MPUT were found. Inter-task correlation among tablet-derived measures was weak.

Conclusions: Most tablet-based dexterity measures showed good-to-excellent reliability (ICC ≥ 0.60) except for unwanted movements during multi-finger tapping. Age-related decline in performance and association with finger force-sensor measures support validity of tablet measures. Tablet-based components of dexterity complement conventional clinical dexterity assessments. Future work is required to establish measurement properties in patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Aging; Digital medicine; Inter-rater reliability; Manual dexterity; Measurement; Reliability; Tablet application; Validity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hand
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stroke*
  • Upper Extremity