BACKGROUND: It is difficult to distinguish between restorative and compensatory mechanisms underlying (pediatric) neurorehabilitation, as objective measures assessing selective voluntary motor control (SVMC) are scarce.
METHODS: We aimed to quantify SVMC of elbow movements in children with brain lesions. Children played an airplane game with the glove-based YouGrabber system. Participants were instructed to steer an airplane on a screen through a cloud-free path by correctly applying bilateral elbow flexion and extension movements. Game performance measures were (i) % time on the correct path and (ii) similarity between the ideal flight path and the actually flown path. SVMC was quantified by calculating a correlation coefficient between the derivative of the ideal path and elbow movements. A therapist scored whether the child had used compensatory movements.
RESULTS: Thirty-three children with brain lesions (11 girls; 12.6 ± 3.6 years) participated. Clinical motor and cognitive scores correlated moderately with SVMC (0.50-0.74). Receiver Operating Characteristics analyses showed that SVMC could differentiate well and better than clinical and game performance measures between compensatory and physiological movements.
CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that a simple measure assessed while playing a game appears promising in quantifying SVMC. We propose how to improve the methodology, and how this approach can be easily extended to other joints.