A deterioration in multiple sclerosis patients’ handwriting aligns with drops in their movement, sensory and cognitive skills, a study reports.
MS includes loss of hand dexterity and finger movement control. This affects a patient’s capacity to manipulate objects and coordinate hand movement, skills needed in handwriting.
“Handwriting is an important and high-value activity, which requires complex sensorimotor, perceptual and cognitive skills,” the researchers wrote. “If one of these abilities declines, as frequently occurs in neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and MS, handwriting could deteriorate.” The result is frustration and handwriting that doesn’t look like the patient’s.
Previous studies have shown that MS patients had less handwriting rhythm and control than healthy people.
This time researchers decided to compare the handwriting movements of both MS patients and healthy volunteers.
Their study, which appeared in journal Scientific Reports, is titled “The kinematics of handwriting movements as expression of cognitive and sensorimotor impairments in people with multiple sclerosis.”
The research involved 19 MS patients and 22 healthy age-matched controls. The team asked participants to write a specific sentence on a digitizing tablet.
They discovered that the way MS patients wrote was much different than those of the controls. The patients took a lot longer to write each word and to achieve spacing between words. This led to them taking a much longer time overall to write a sentence than healthy people.
In addition, analysis of handwriting strokes showed that MS patients’ writing wasn’t as smooth as that of healthy people.
Researchers also found a correlation between patients’ movement abilities and cognitive status on the one hand and their handwriting ability on the other.
The team said it believed “these findings might be very useful when planning rehabilitative task-oriented interventions focused on handwriting abilities.”
In fact, rehabilitation specialists should consider evaluating “both the motor [movement] and the cognitive status of PwMS [patients with MS] in order to tailor the intervention.”