University of Illinois LogoWhile holding, lifting or manipulating an object such as drinking from a cup or placing a book on a shelf is typically easy for most, it could perhaps be challenging for those suffering from neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s, or for people who have experienced a stroke. For them, the tight gripping may result in fatigue, thereby making everyday tasks difficult.

According to a team of physical therapists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, persons undergoing multiple sclerosis seem to make use of excessive force when they are lifting objects. In an earlier finding, they claimed that regaining control and coordination could possibly be as simple as applying a gentle touch to the affected hand from a finger of the opposite hand.

The research was believed to have compared nearly eight adults with multiple sclerosis to eight without the disease, gender-matched and of similar age. Aruin found alike results in an earlier research which he did of people with arm weakness caused by a stroke.

“We studied how this light touch application changes the way people apply force to an object they want to grip. In each case, the grip force required to lift an object decreased,” says Alexander Aruin, professor of physical therapy.

Why the simple light finger touch application appears to function so well is not yet completely understood. However, he seems to put forward the theory.

Aruin further said that, “It could be due to auxiliary sensory information from the contra-lateral arm. When we use our second hand and touch the wrist of the target hand, available information to the central nervous system about the hand-object interaction may increase. Without the touch, the information needed to manipulate an object comes only through vision and sensory input from just the target arm and hand”

Aruin along with his colleagues were observed to have tested subjects gripping and lifting a variety of objects that they moved in several different ways, directions and velocities. Supposedly, the gentle finger touch always assisted in reducing grip force, in turn making the task simpler.

The researchers plan to test the approach on those with other neurological and muscular diseases in order to look over the effects. Aruin anticipates in developing training and rehabilitation procedures on how to use this. He claims that this finding may perhaps enable them to perform every day activities more independently thereby improving multiple sclerosis patients’ quality of life.

The research findings have been published in the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.