Motor impairment

Motor impairment is the partial or total loss of function of a body part, usually a limb or limbs.  This may result in muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or total paralysis. Motor impairment is often evident in neurological conditions such a cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

An extreme form of motor impairment is locked-in syndrome, in which voluntary control of almost all muscles is lost, sometimes including the eyes, in an individual who retains cognitive function. The syndrome is caused by damage to portions of the lower brain and brainstem, from a stroke or other insult.

Tetraplegia, or paraplegia, is loss of the use of the arms, legs and torso, usually caused by spinal cord injury, especially in the area of the fifth to the seventh vertebrae. This level of paralysis is also associated with loss of sensation from the neck down.  

Neural interfaces have been explored to restore functionality for severely motor-impaired individuals. Implanted devices in the area of the brain’s motor cortex sense brain states, and the interpreted signals are transmitted to a computer. With training, users develop some command over objects in the environment, which could be applied to such basic efforts as communicating or moving a motorized wheelchair.


Reviewed April 2, 2012
Jaimie M. Henderson, MD
Director-at-Large, International Neuromodulation Society, 2011 - 2014
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, and, By Courtesy, of Neurology and Neurological Sciences; Robert and Ruth Halperin Faculty Scholar; Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery; Co-Director, Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory; Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

Last Updated on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:45 AM