Upper extremity (UE) hemiparesis results in decreased movement speed and impaired coordination leading to functional limitations and disability. The effects of UE hemiparesis on bilateral functional reaching have not been studied even though most activities of daily living are bilateral tasks. We examined the characteristics of bilateral simultaneous (SIM-B) and bilateral sequential paretic-lead (SEQ-P) and nonparetic-lead (SEQ-NP) functional reaching tasks at preferred and fast speeds. Sixteen patients with chronic hemiparesis completed three bilateral reaching tasks as fast as possible. A subset of eight participants attempted to complete the tasks at both preferred and fastest possible speeds. Paretic (P) and nonparetic (NP) arms were not different from each other in movement time (MT) or peak velocity in the SIM-B condition. MT and peak velocity differed between the two arms during both SEQ tasks. P MT was shorter and NP MT longer in the SIM-B task compared to SEQ-P and SEQ-NP. The P arm MT was the shortest when moving with the NP arm in a simultaneous task compared to both P and NP lead sequential movements. Despite hemiparesis, the two arms demonstrate a temporal coupling when moving simultaneously. When attempting to move at fastest speed, P arm MT time is better when reaching before or with the NP arm than when reaching after the NP arm showing coupling to the NP limb and increased speed of movement. These coupling effects support the rationale for bilateral arm training for individuals with UE hemiparesis.
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