Rehabilitation methods improved non-dominant hand function in amputees

Chronic and forced use can improve speed and quality levels of an amputee’s non-dominant hand, according to results from a University of Missouri-Columbia study.

Researchers observed 8 hand amputees perform simple drawing tests vs matched controls, and found amputees who were forced to compensate with their non-dominant hand achieved results comparable to the control group using their dominant hands. The same tests were then conducted under fMRI so brain function could be observed.  

“When amputees were forced to use their non-dominant hands, they exhibited performance-related increases in both the right and left hemispheres [of the brain],” Scott Frey, professor of psychological sciences and director of the Brain Imaging Center at MU, stated in a press release.  

Although the amputee’s precision drawing performances with their non-dominant hands reached levels of smoothness, acceleration time, and speed equivalent to the control group’s dominant hand, their accuracy was comparable to non-dominant hands.

Frey said that although more research is needed, his team’s work on amputees may improve rehabilitation of patients who do not regain precision control of the dominant hand during acute and sub-acute phases of recovery.

“This raises the hope that, through targeted training, non-dominant hand functions can be vastly improved, enabling a better quality of life for those who have lost dominant hand functions due to bodily or brain injury or disease.”

For more information:

Frey S. J Neurosci. 2014: doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3770-13.2014.

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