Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 206, Issue 1, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Sensory-motor equivalence: manual aiming in C6 tetraplegics following musculotendinous transfer surgery at the elbow

  • Mark A. Robinson
  • Spencer J. Hayes
  • Simon J. Bennett
  • Gabor J. Barton
  • Digby Elliott
Research Article


Cervical spinal lesions at C6 result in paralysis of the triceps brachii while leaving deltoid and elbow flexor function intact. We examined the spatial–temporal characteristics of goal-directed aiming movements performed by C6 tetraplegics who had undergone musculotendinous transfer surgery in which the posterior deltoid replaces the triceps as the elbow extensor. On some trials, liquid crystal goggles were used to eliminate vision of the limb and target upon movement initiation. Although tetraplegic participants achieved the same degree of movement accuracy/consistency as control participants, their movement times were longer regardless of whether the movements were made away from (elbow extension) or towards the body (elbow flexion). Longer movement times were related to lower peak velocities, and not the symmetry of the aiming profiles. The tetraplegic participants were no more dependent on visual feedback for limb regulation than control participants. Although the characteristics of the movement trajectories were surprisingly similar, in both vision conditions, tetraplegics required more real and proportional time to reduce spatial variability in the limb’s trajectory for elbow extensions. Our results indicate that the sensorimotor system is adaptable and that the representations governing limb control are not muscle specific.


Effector independence Motor equivalence Tetraplegia Tendon transfer Aiming Vision Motor control Kinematics 



This work was supported by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The authors wish to express their thanks to Mrs. Barbara Hoole and Mr. Pradip Sett of the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust for their assistance with the recruitment of participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark A. Robinson
    • 1
  • Spencer J. Hayes
    • 1
  • Simon J. Bennett
    • 1
  • Gabor J. Barton
    • 1
  • Digby Elliott
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Institute for Sport and Exercise SciencesFaculty of Science, Liverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyMcMaster UniversityOntarioCanada

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