• We examined the role of bimanual force coordination in bimanual dexterity after stroke.
• Stroke group showed impaired dexterity in a bimanual task with a shared goal.
• Stroke group had poor bimanual coordination of forces during dynamic force modulation.
• Reduced bimanual force coordination predicted impaired dexterity in a bimanual task.
The ability to coordinate forces with both hands is crucial for manipulating objects in bimanual tasks. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of bimanual force coordination on collaborative hand use for dexterous tasks in chronic stroke survivors.
Fourteen stroke survivors (63.03 ± 15.33 years) and 14 healthy controls (68.85 ± 8.16) performed two bimanual tasks: 1) Pegboard assembly task, and 2) dynamic force tracking task using bilateral index fingers. The Pegboard assembly task required collaborative use of both hands to construct a structure with pins, collars, and washers. We quantified bimanual dexterity with Pegboard assembly score as the total number of pins, collars, and washers assembled in one minute. The force tracking task involved controlled force increment and decrement while tracking a trapezoid trajectory. The task goal was to match the target force with the total force, i.e., sum of forces produced by both hands as accurately as possible. We quantified bimanual force coordination by computing time-series cross-correlation coefficient, time-lag, amplitude of coherence in 0 – 0.5 Hz, and 0.5 – 1 Hz for force increment and decrement phases.
In the Pegboard assembly task, the stroke group assembled fewer items relative to the control group (p = 0.004). In the bimanual force tracking task, the stroke group showed reduced cross-correlation coefficient (p = 0.01), increased time-lag (p = 0.00), and reduced amplitude of coherence in 0 – 0.5 Hz (p = 0.03) and in 0.5 – 1 Hz (p = 0.00). Multiple regression analysis in the stroke group revealed that performance on Pegboard assembly task was explained by cross-correlation coefficient and coherence in 0.5 – 1 Hz during force increment (R2 = 0.52, p = 0.00).
Individuals with stroke show impaired bimanual dexterity and diminished bimanual force coordination. Importantly, stroke-related deterioration in bimanual force coordination is associated with poor performance on dexterous bimanual tasks that require collaboration between hands. Re-training bimanual force coordination in stroke survivors could facilitate a higher degree of participation in daily activities through improved bimanual dexterity.