Characterization of Upper Extremity Motor Control Using Virtual Reality

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Megan Reissman


Task specific training has been shown to be an effective neuromotor rehabilitation intervention. However, these tasks are often repetitive and encompass a combination of activities of daily living. Virtual reality (VR) systems are becoming increasingly popular as a therapeutic tool due to their ability to create a fully customizable dynamic simulation model. This study’s primary aim is to characterize how biomechanical joint angles are impacted by direction and location of the movement tasks. The secondary aim of this study is to determine if joint angle biomechanics for a specific task are significantly impacted by a parallel task condition: unilateral (one arm at a time), mirrored (both arms moving in the same direction), or opposing (both arms moving in opposite directions) motion. Healthy participants (n=16), without any upper limb injuries, were asked to play a commercially available VR game known as Beat Saber, using customized levels. The levels were separated into unilateral, mirrored, or opposing tasks. Within each level the movements were organized by hand, height, vertical position, and direction of the cut. Results allowed the kinematics characterization for each movement task factor. Horizontal tasks included inward and outward motions as well as decrease wrist extension. Vertical tasks included upward and downward tasks, as well as providing higher targets. Such tasks were found to increase shoulder flexion, wrist radial deviation, wrist ulnar deviation, and elbow flexion. The further the target was from the shoulder joint center, the more shoulder flexion and abduction occurred, for all directions. Mirrored and unilateral motions often exaggerated joint angles, while opposing motions muted the metrics.


Upper Extremity, Virtual Reality, Inertial Measurement Units, Kinematics

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