Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 10(28), p. (2013) DOI:10.1186/1743-0003-10-28

Cross recurrence quantification analysis of precision grip following peripheral median nerve block

K. Li, Z.-M. Li

Background
Precision grip by the thumb and index finger is vulnerable to sensorimotor deficits. Traditional biomechanical parameters offer limited insight into the dynamical coordination between digits during precision grip. In this study, the thumb and index finger were viewed as "coupled systems", and a cross recurrence quantification analysis (CRQA) was used to examine the changes of interdigit dynamics and synchronization caused by peripheral median nerve block.

Methods
Seven subjects performed a precision grip by holding an instrumented handle before and after median nerve block at the wrist. The forces and the torques at each digit-handle interface were recorded with two six-component transducers. For CRQA, the percentage of recurrence rate (%RR), percentage of determinism (%DET), longest diagonal line (Lmax) and percentage of laminarity (%LAM) were computed for the force, torque and center of pressure (COP) signals. Phase synchronization of the thumb and index finger was examined based on the τ-recurrence rate. Paired t-tests and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were used for statistical comparisons. The twin-surrogate hypothesis test was used to examine phase synchronization.

Results
Nerve block led to significant increases (p<0.05) for %DET, Lmax and %LAM in all components of force, torque, and COP. Only the normal force met the conditions of phase synchronization for all successfully completed pre- and post-block grasping trials. The probability of synchronization with larger time lags (τ>0.1 s) increased after nerve block. The percentage of trials that the thumb led the index finger increased from 52% (pre-block) to 86% (post-block).

Conclusions
Nerve block caused more deterministic structures in force, torque and COP when the thumb interacted with the index finger. A compensatory mechanism may be responsible for this change. Phase synchronization between the opposite normal forces exerted by the thumb and index finger would be an essential dynamical principle for a precision grip. The nerve block resulted in an increased interdigit phase delay and increased probability that the thumb leads the index finger. The CRQA provides an effective tool to examine interdigit coordination during precision grip and has the potential for clinical evaluation of hand dysfunction.

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