Year of Publication

2000

Date of Thesis

12-2000

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Occupational Therapy

Subject Categories

Motor learning; Writing; Transfer of training; Masters theses -- Occupational therapy

Abstract

The complexities of motor learning are an important and integral part of the practice of occupational therapy. Intermanual transfer of motor learning is a specific area of interest that has significant relevance to the specificity of clinical motor training activities utilized in therapy. The term refers to the transfer of upper extremity motor skills previously learned by one cerebral hemisphere of the brain to the other cerebral hemisphere. Understanding the complexities of motor learning is important to occupational therapists as they develop strategies to be used with applicable clients with motor disabilities. Integral to this premise is the notion that clients who have lost function in one limb may relearn motor behaviors by accessing previously learned skills from the relatively unaffected contra-lateral cerebral hemisphere. Recent research indicates an inter-hemispheric dependence for the development of upper extremity motor skills and intermanual transfer.

This study investigates intermanual transfer in a group of ten right-handed subjects with no known motor disabilities. Each subject learned to perform a novel motor task that included practice, original learning, and transfer learning involving distal muscle groups The task required the writing of an alphabet letter of a foreign language. During the practice sessions, the subjects traced the letter six times either with their right or left hand. In the original learning sessions, the subjects used the same hand as in the practice sessions to reproduce the skill without the letter in view. In the transfer learning sessions, the subjects reproduced the skill with the contralateral hand. Once that protocol had been completed, subjects switched hands to begin the sessions again using the opposite hand. Movements of the pen were recorded using the search coil system to assess kinematic performance. Simultaneous electromyography (EMG) recordings of the first dorsal interosseus muscle were performed to measure distal muscle activity.

EMG and kinematic data were analyzed to compare motor learning between the dominant hand transfer of learning to the non-dominant hand and the non-dominant hand transfer of learning to the dominant hand. Analysis indicates an almost full transfer of the learned motor task between hands, ranging from 80-100% for left to right and right to left conditions. Findings strongly suggest that the contralateral motor learning resulting from inter-manual transfer functions might be useful for promoting unilateral or bilateral upper extremity motor rehabilitation.

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