This study investigated spiral drawing performance as an indicator of fine motor function, as well as to gain insight into adaptive movement strategies used by people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Seven people with MS, nine younger controls (mean age of 20) and eight older controls (mean age of 40) drew spirals on a graphics tablet at a comfortable speed and size. Spirography (i.e., a subjective visual assessment of the static trace) revealed indications of reduced control of the pen for people with MS. Analysis of the movements showed that people with MS tended to draw the spirals slower and with less pen pressure than controls. All groups increased their speed and pressure along with spiral size, but this increase was much steeper for the controls. MS participants drew spirals with more variability around an ideal trajectory, highlighting fine motor control degradation. MS patients tended to use a smaller scaling ratio, resulting in smaller spirals for a given number of revolutions. The younger and older control groups drew the spirals in a similar manner, and age was not a significant factor in any of the analyses. It is argued that the relatively lower pressure used, and slower, smaller movements (particularly during the more difficult outer sections of the spiral) are in part an adaptive strategy used to reduce movement variability. These results demonstrate the utility of the analysis of spiral movements as an objective technique for assessing motor control degradation, which can compliment the subjective rating based on the static pen trace. As such, it can provide further insight into the biomechanical strategies used when performing fine movements. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Longstaff, MG & Heath, RA 2006, 'Spiral drawing performance as an indicator of fine motor function in people with multiple sclerosis', Human Movement Science, vol. 25, no. 4-5, pp. 474-491.
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Publisher's version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2006.05.005