Decomposition of Reaching Movements Enables Detection and Measurement of Ataxia

Brandon Oubre, Jean Francois Daneault, Kallie Whritenour, Nergis C. Khan, Christopher D. Stephen, Jeremy D. Schmahmann, Sunghoon Ivan Lee, Anoopum S. Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Technologies that enable frequent, objective, and precise measurement of ataxia severity would benefit clinical trials by lowering participation barriers and improving the ability to measure disease state and change. We hypothesized that analyzing characteristics of sub-second movement profiles obtained during a reaching task would be useful for objectively quantifying motor characteristics of ataxia. Participants with ataxia (N=88), participants with parkinsonism (N=44), and healthy controls (N=34) performed a computer tablet version of the finger-to-nose test while wearing inertial sensors on their wrists. Data features designed to capture signs of ataxia were extracted from participants’ decomposed wrist velocity time-series. A machine learning regression model was trained to estimate overall ataxia severity, as measured by the Brief Ataxia Rating Scale (BARS). Classification models were trained to distinguish between ataxia participants and controls and between ataxia and parkinsonism phenotypes. Movement decomposition revealed expected and novel characteristics of the ataxia phenotype. The distance, speed, duration, morphology, and temporal relationships of decomposed movements exhibited strong relationships with disease severity. The regression model estimated BARS with a root mean square error of 3.6 points, r2 = 0.69, and moderate-to-excellent reliability. Classification models distinguished between ataxia participants and controls and ataxia and parkinsonism phenotypes with areas under the receiver-operating curve of 0.96 and 0.89, respectively. Movement decomposition captures core features of ataxia and may be useful for objective, precise, and frequent assessment of ataxia in home and clinic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-822
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Ataxia
  • Brief Ataxia Rating Scale
  • Machine learning
  • Movement decomposition
  • Wearable electronic devices


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