Manual tracking performance was studied in five patients with cerebellar incoordination due to unilateral cerebellar hemisphere lesions. The subjects were required to track a target on an oscilloscope screen by moving a cursor controlled by flexion-extension movements of the wrist. In comparison to normal subjects, the cerebellar patients, using their clinically affected arm, demonstrated irregular tracking patterns with inappropriate accelerations and decelerations, numerous high velocity peaks of movement, and an increased time lag between the cursor and the target.
The addition of a viscous load provided by feeding back wrist velocity to a torque motor coupled to the apparatus resulted in significant improvement in tracking performance and suppression of the high velocity peaks. Increasing elastic stiffness by feeding back wrist position or inertial load by adding weights to the hand did not improve performance on this task. It is proposed that a hypotonic cerebellar limb behaves like an underdamped mechanical system. The addition of viscous loads helps restore more normal damping during voluntary movements of the arm.