Background: Functional upper extremity (UE) motion enables humans to execute activities of daily living (ADLs). There currently exists no universal language to systematically characterize this type of motion or its fundamental building blocks, called primitives. Without a standardized classification approach, pooling mechanistic knowledge and unpacking rehabilitation content will remain challenging.
Methods: We created a taxonomy to characterize functional UE motions occurring during ADLs, classifying them by motion presence, temporal cyclicity, upper body effector, and contact type. We identified five functional primitives by their phenotype and purpose: reach, reposition, transport, stabilize, and idle. The taxonomy was assessed for its validity and interrater reliability in right-paretic chronic stroke patients performing a selection of ADL tasks. We applied the taxonomy to identify the primitive content and motion characteristics of these tasks, and to evaluate the influence of impairment level on these outcomes.
Results: The taxonomy could account for all motions in the sampled activities. Interrater reliability was high for primitive identification (Cohen’s kappa = 0.95-0.99). Using the taxonomy, the ADL tasks were found to be composed primarily of transport and stabilize primitives mainly executed with discrete, proximal motions. Compared to mildly impaired patients, moderately impaired patients used more repeated reaches and axial-proximal UE motion to execute the tasks.
Conclusions: The proposed taxonomy yields objective, quantitative data on human functional UE motion. This new method could facilitate the decomposition and quantification of UE rehabilitation, the characterization of functional abnormality after stroke, and the mechanistic examination of shared behavior in motor studies.