Sensor Measures of Symmetry Quantify Upper Limb Movement in the Natural Environment Across the Lifespan

Beth A. Smith, Catherine E. Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

25 Scopus citations


Knowledge of upper limb activity in the natural environment is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of rehabilitation services. Wearable sensors allow efficient collection of these data and have the potential to be less burdensome than self-report measures of activity. Sensors can capture many different variables of activity and daily performance, many of which could be useful in identifying deviation from typical movement behavior or measuring outcomes from rehabilitation interventions. Although it has potential, sensor measurement is just emerging, and there is a lack of consensus regarding which variables of daily performance are valid, sensitive, specific, and useful. We propose that symmetry of full-day upper limb movement is a key variable. We describe here that symmetry is valid, robustly observed within a narrow range across the lifespan in typical development, and shows evidence of being different in populations with neuromotor impairment. Key next steps include the determination of sensitivity, specificity, minimal detectable change, and minimal clinically important change/difference. This information is needed to determine whether an individual belongs to the typical or atypical group, whether change has occurred, and whether that change is beneficial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1176-1183
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Rehabilitation
  • Upper extremity


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