Experimental Brain Research vol:177 issue:4 pages:431-439
Fitts' Law is commonly found to apply to motor tasks involving precise aiming movements. Children with cerebral palsy (CP) have severe difficulties in such tasks and it is unknown whether they obey Fitts' Law despite their motor difficulties. If Fitts' Law still does apply to these children, this would indicate that this law is extremely robust and that even performance of children with damaged central nervous systems can adhere to it. The integrity of motor control processes in spastic CP is usually tested in complex motor tasks, making it difficult to determine whether poor performance is due to a motor output deficit or to problems related to cognitive processes since both affect movement precision. In the present study a simple task was designed to evaluate Fitts' Law. Tapping movements were evaluated in 22 children with congenital spastic hemiplegia (CSH) and 22 typically developing children. Targets (2.5 and 5 cm in width) were placed at distances of 10 and 20 cm from each other in order to provide Indices of Difficulty (ID) of 2-4 bits. Using this Fitts' aiming task, prolonged reaction and movement time (MT) were found in the affected hand under all conditions in children with CSH as compared to controls. Like in the control group, MT in children with CSH was related to ID. The intercept 'a', corresponding to the time required to realize a tapping movement, was higher in the affected hand of the children in the CSH group. Although, the slope b (which reflects the sensitivity of the motor system to a change in difficulty of the task) and the reciprocal of slope (that represents the cognitive information processing capacity, expressed in bits/s) were similar in both groups. In conclusion, children with CSH obey Fitts' Law despite very obvious limitations in fine motor control.