Serge Zilber

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Anthony Sances, Jr.


For a rational management of Parkinson's disease, it is desirable that muscular rigidity be measured in standard physical units rather than in subjective terms. In general the symptom of rigidity is poorly understood and loosely described, but if instruments can be used for quantifying clinical changes in rigidity, then the most effective type and amounts of drugs can be selected and surgical therapy aided.

At the present time, routine clinical evaluation of rigidity is obtained by asking a patient to relax while a physician, moving a joint passively, e.g., the forearm about the elbow, estimates the effort required to produce the passive motion. Since it is difficult to assign a particular value to the required force, rigidity is therefore categorized as mild, intermediate, or severe.

This dissertation is directed toward quantifying the rigidity characteristic of Parkinson's disease. It gives the description of a device and a method capable of ascribing an effective measure to the gross rigidity of the upper limbs. Also included are the results of tests performed on normal volunteers and patients. The tests, which are part of a study program on the new anti-Parkinson drug L-Dopa being conducted at the Milwaukee County General Hospital, demonstrate the validity of the measurements. In addition, a kinetic model of the upper limb is proposed for determining the effects of inertia upon the measurements of rigidity and also separating rigidity into the individual contributions of the elbow and shoulder joints to the gross rigidity of the limb.

I hope that this work will contribute in a small way to the general effort of determining the causes and finding a cure for this baffling disease.



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