In healthy volunteers, reduction of somatosensory input from one hand leads to rapid performance improvements in the other hand. Thus, it is possible that reduction of somatosensory input from the healthy hand can influence motor function in the paretic hand of chronic stroke patients with unilateral hand weakness. To test this hypothesis, we had 13 chronic stroke patients perform motor tasks with the paretic hand and arm during cutaneous anesthesia of the healthy hand and healthy foot in separate sessions. Performance of a finger tapping task, but not a wrist flexion task, improved significantly with anesthesia of the hand, but not the foot. This effect progressed with the duration of anesthesia and correlated with baseline motor function. We conclude that cutaneous anesthesia of the healthy hand elicits transient site-specific improvements in motor performance of the moderately paretic hand in patients with chronic stroke, consistent with interhemispheric competition models of sensorimotor processing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas