Movement planning and online control in multiple sclerosis: assessment using a Fitts law reciprocal aiming task

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We sought to quantify subtle changes in motor control in multiple sclerosis (MS) using a Fitts law reciprocal aiming task presented on a computer touchscreen. Upper-limb motor control is impaired in MS. However, many commonly used motor assessments do not detect subtle changes in motor function or differentiate between aspects of movement such as planning and online control. Fitts law states that movement time varies as a function of task difficulty, with smaller targets and greater distances making the task more difficult. We gave a Fitts aiming task to 22 patients with MS and 22 matched controls. We manipulated movement difficulty by changing the targets size and distance apart. The patients spent a significantly longer time than the controls stationary in each target before starting the next movement, and had a lower peak velocity, suggesting deficits in movement planning. The patients also spent longer in the deceleration phase of each movement, indicating deficits in the online control of movement. The computerized Fitts task allows quick, easy, and sensitive measurement of subtle aspects of movement. This task should be useful in clinical and research settings for assessing MS motor symptoms, disease progression, and treatment efficacy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139 - 147
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive and Behavioral Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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