Robotic Assessment of Wrist Proprioception During Kinaesthetic Perturbations: A Neuroergonomic Approach

Erika D'Antonio, Elisa Galofaro, Jacopo Zenzeri, Fabrizio Patané, Jürgen Konczak, Maura Casadio, Lorenzo Masia

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4 Scopus citations


Position sense refers to an aspect of proprioception crucial for motor control and learning. The onset of neurological diseases can damage such sensory afference, with consequent motor disorders dramatically reducing the associated recovery process. In regular clinical practice, assessment of proprioceptive deficits is run by means of clinical scales which do not provide quantitative measurements. However, existing robotic solutions usually do not involve multi-joint movements but are mostly applied to a single proximal or distal joint. The present work provides a testing paradigm for assessing proprioception during coordinated multi-joint distal movements and in presence of kinaesthetic perturbations: we evaluated healthy subjects' ability to match proprioceptive targets along two of the three wrist's degrees of freedom, flexion/extension and abduction/adduction. By introducing rotations along the pronation/supination axis not involved in the matching task, we tested two experimental conditions, which differed in terms of the temporal imposition of the external perturbation: in the first one, the disturbance was provided after the presentation of the proprioceptive target, while in the second one, the rotation of the pronation/ supination axis was imposed during the proprioceptive target presentation. We investigated if (i) the amplitude of the perturbation along the pronation/supination would lead to proprioceptive miscalibration; (ii) the encoding of proprioceptive target, would be influenced by the presentation sequence between the target itself and the rotational disturbance. Eighteen participants were tested by means of a haptic neuroergonomic wrist device: our findings provided evidence that the order of disturbance presentation does not alter proprioceptive acuity. Yet, a further effect has been noticed: proprioception is highly anisotropic and dependent on perturbation amplitude. Unexpectedly, the configuration of the forearm highly influences sensory feedbacks, and significantly alters subjects' performance in matching the proprioceptive targets, defining portions of the wrist workspace where kinaesthetic and proprioceptive acuity are more sensitive. This finding may suggest solutions and applications in multiple fields: from general haptics where, knowing how wrist configuration influences proprioception, might suggest new neuroergonomic solutions in device design, to clinical evaluation after neurological damage, where accurately assessing proprioceptive deficits can dramatically complement regular therapy for a better prediction of the recovery path.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number640551
JournalFrontiers in Neurorobotics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge financial support by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within the funding programme Open Access Publishing, by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and by Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 D'Antonio, Galofaro, Zenzeri, Patané, Konczak, Casadio and Masia.


  • biomechanics
  • motor control
  • multi-joint
  • proprioception
  • robotic assessment
  • static perturbation


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