Sensory Stimulation Augments the Effects of Massed Practice Training in Persons With Tetraplegia

Kristina S. Beekhuizen, Edelle C. Field-Fote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Beekhuizen KS, Field-Fote EC. Sensory stimulation augments the effects of massed practice training in persons with tetraplegia. Objective: To compare functional changes and cortical neuroplasticity associated with hand and upper extremity use after massed (repetitive task-oriented practice) training, somatosensory stimulation, massed practice training combined with somatosensory stimulation, or no intervention, in persons with chronic incomplete tetraplegia. Design: Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: massed practice training combined with somatosensory peripheral nerve stimulation (MP+SS), somatosensory peripheral nerve stimulation only (SS), massed practice training only (MP), and no intervention (control). Setting: University medical school setting. Participants: Twenty-four subjects with chronic incomplete tetraplegia. Interventions: Intervention sessions were 2 hours per session, 5 days a week for 3 weeks. Massed practice training consisted of repetitive practice of functional tasks requiring skilled hand and upper-extremity use. Somatosensory stimulation consisted of median nerve stimulation with intensity set below motor threshold. Main Outcome Measures: Pre- and post-testing assessed changes in functional hand use (Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function Test), functional upper-extremity use (Wolf Motor Function Test), pinch grip strength (key pinch force), sensory function (monofilament testing), and changes in cortical excitation (motor evoked potential threshold). Results: The 3 groups showed significant improvements in hand function after training. The MP+SS and SS groups had significant improvements in upper-extremity function and pinch strength compared with the control group, but only the MP+SS group had a significant change in sensory scores compared with the control group. The MP+SS and MP groups had greater change in threshold measures of cortical excitability. Conclusions: People with chronic incomplete tetraplegia obtain functional benefits from massed practice of task-oriented skills. Somatosensory stimulation appears to be a valuable adjunct to training programs designed to improve hand and upper-extremity function in these subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-608
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Hand
  • Motor skills
  • Neuronal plasticity
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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