Assessment of bilateral motor skills and visuospatial attention in children with perinatal stroke using a robotic object hitting task

Rachel L. Hawe, Andrea M. Kuczynski, Adam Kirton, Sean P. Dukelow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: While motor deficits are the hallmark of hemiparetic cerebral palsy, children may also experience impairments in visuospatial attention that interfere with participation in complex activities, including sports or driving. In this study, we used a robotic object hitting task to assess bilateral sensorimotor control and visuospatial skills in children with hemiparesis due to perinatal arterial ischemic stroke (AIS) or periventricular venous infarct (PVI). We hypothesized that performance would be impaired bilaterally and be related to motor behavior and clinical assessment of visuospatial attention. Methods: Forty-nine children with perinatal stroke and hemiparetic cerebral palsy and 155 typically developing (TD) children participated in the study. Participants performed a bilateral object hitting task using the KINARM Exoskeleton Robot, in which they used virtual paddles at their fingertips to hit balls that fell from the top of the screen with increasing speed and frequency over 2.3 min. We quantified performance across 13 parameters including number of balls hit with each hand, movement speed and area, biases between hands, and spatial biases. We determined normative ranges of performance accounting for age by fitting 95% prediction bands to the TD children. We compared parameters between TD, AIS, and PVI groups using ANCOVAs accounting for age effects. Lastly, we performed regression analysis between robotic and clinical measures. Results: The majority of children with perinatal stroke hit fewer balls with their affected arm compared to their typically developing peers. We also found deficits with the ipsilesional ("unaffected") arm. Children with AIS had greater impairments than PVI. Despite hitting fewer balls, we only identified 18% of children as impaired in hand speed or movement area. Performance on the Behavioral Inattention Test accounted for 21-32% of the variance in number of balls hit with the unaffected hand. Conclusions: Children with perinatal stroke-induced hemiparetic cerebral palsy may have complex bilateral deficits reflecting a combination of impairments in motor skill and visuospatial attention. Clinical assessments and interventions should address the interplay between motor and visuospatial skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 13 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Bilateral motor control
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Perinatal stroke
  • Robotics
  • Visuospatial attention

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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