Dexterity and Finger Sense: A Possible Dissociation in Children With Cerebral Palsy

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Both hand and finger sensory perception and motor abilities are essential for the development of skilled gestures and efficient bimanual coordination. While finger dexterity and finger sensory perception can be impaired in children with cerebral palsy (CP), the relationship between these two functions in this population is not clearly established. The common assumption that CP children with better sensory function also demonstrate better motor outcomes has been recently challenged. To study these questions further, we assessed both finger dexterity and finger gnosia, the ability to perceive one’s own fingers by touch, in groups of 11 children with unilateral (i.e., hemiplegic CP) and 11 children with bilateral spastic CP (i.e., diplegic CP) and compared them with typical children. In our sample, children with hemiplegia exhibited finger dexterity deficit in both hands and finger gnosia deficit only in their paretic hand. In contrast, children with diplegia exhibited finger gnosia deficits in both hands and finger dexterity deficit only in their dominant hand. Thus, our results indicated that children with spastic hemiplegia and diplegia present different sensory and motor profiles and suggest that these two subgroups of CP should be considered separately in future experimental and clinical research. We discuss the implications of our results for rehabilitation.

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