Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Scheidt, Robert A.

Second Advisor

Schmit, Brian

Third Advisor

Stoeckmann, Tina


More than half of stroke survivors experience persistent upper extremity motor impairments that can negatively impact quality of life and independence. Effective use of the upper extremity requires coordination of agonist/antagonist muscle pairs, as well as coordination of multiple control actions for stabilizing and moving the arm. In this dissertation, I present three studies in which I recorded isometric torque production, single joint movement and stabilization, and clinical measures of function and impairments after stroke to evaluate the extent to which changes in coordination of agonist/antagonist muscles and of sequential control actions contribute to deficits after stroke. In Aim 1, I quantified the extent to which stroke-related deficits in the coordination of agonist/antagonist muscle pairs degraded the ability to generate, maintain, and relax cued torques about the elbow. Participants who survived stroke (SP) and neurologically intact participants (NI) performed pursuit tracking of step-changes in isomeric torque targets to investigate coordination of activation magnitude in elbow agonist/antagonist muscle pairs. SP had marked hypertonia of the primary flexor muscles, which led to increased compensatory activity in the primary extensor muscles. These stroke-related deficits of muscle coordination degraded ability to generate, maintain, and relax cued torque production. In Aim 2, SP and NI performed sequential combinations of elbow stabilization and movements to investigate impairments in execution and coordination of these fundamental control actions. Impaired proprioception in SP was associated with increased impairments in stabilizing the arm against a perturbation compared with SP with intact proprioception. Surprisingly, SP with intact proprioception had greater impairments when moving than did SP with impaired proprioception. These results support the supposition that deficits of somatosensation can differentially impact neural control of limb stabilization and movement. Aim 3 used correlation and forward regression to compare deficits of muscle coordination (Aim 1) and control (Aim 2) to one another in order to quantify the extent to which each could explain deficits of motor function after stroke. Taken together, the three studies revealed that stroke-related deficits in coordination timing and magnitude of muscle activation impact clinically-measured function, and that somatosensory deficits can differentially impair neuromotor stabilization and movement control.