The Tapping Speed assessment is one of the many tools available to assess motor control and the integrity of the neuromuscular system. The Finger Tapping task involves evaluating the tapping speed of the fingers and the time between each tap. The task can be administered with variations depending on the need of the investigation.
Motor control refers to the activation and coordination of muscles and limbs to perform motor activities. Motor activities are an important part of our everyday life, and motor dysfunction can significantly impact the quality of life. The motor deficits can arise in individuals as a result of neurodegenerative diseases or injuries.For recording the number of tapping and inter-tap interval, devices such as the mechanical counter, computer keyboards, and sensors, are generally employed. The participant is asked to place their palms flat on the surface with their finger stretched out and placed over the sensor or the button. Usually, the task is carried out in 10-20 seconds trials. With the aid of Apple’s ResearchKit, this task can only be administered with the subject’s iPhone.The constituents of basic motor capabilities (speed, accuracy, and rhythm) can be assessed by the Tapping Speed Active task of the Apple’s ResearchKit Framework. The user is presented with two targets on the touchscreen and is required to tap the targets, alternating between the two rapidly. This activity uses the multi-touch display, and the accelerometer sensor of the iPhone to collect data via touch activity.
Tapping Speed task instructions
- Rest your device on a flat surface.
- Start the task.
- Place two fingers of the same hand over the two buttons that appear on the screen.
- Using the two fingers, take turns to tap the buttons as fast as you can, alternatingly, for 20 seconds.
- Task completed.
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Munro et al., 2012 evaluated the effect of antidepressants on the cognitive performance of depressed Alzheimer’s patients. Patients were tested for index finger tapping speed for 10-second intervals in 5 trials for the dominant and the non-dominant hands. The assessments were conducted in 8 week interval periods for 24 weeks. No significant observations were made over the course of assessment in either the sertraline-treated patients and placebo-treated patients. The researchers suggested this was because the patients did not suffer from Major Depression, which would have impacted their cognitive abilities.
Gao et al., 2015 evaluated fine motor function in male teenagers with mild spastic diplegia. The Tapping Test involved using the index fingers to press the keys persistently for a 30 second period. The first task involved tapping the right keyboard key with the right-hand finger followed by pressing the left key with the left-hand finger. Next, the participants were asked to tap the left and right keys alternatingly with the right-hand, and then with the left-hand. Under all four conditions of testing, the patients had larger Tap Rate in comparisons to the controls.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Hubel et al., 2013 evaluated the effect of Traumatic Brain Injury on the Finger Tapping Task performance. Patients with mild TBI were assessed in 30-second trials that required them to tap the button of a high-precision gaming mouse as fast as possible. The task was first performed with the right index finger, then repeated with the right middle finger, left
index finger, and then left middle finger. Mild TBI patients showed slower median tapping rates in comparison to matched controls.
Stegemöller et al., 2015 studied the finger movement performance differences in patients diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). The participants performed the finger tapping task with an incremental acoustic tone. Results analysis revealed that at movement rates near 2 Hz, PSP patients maintained a constant tapping rate while the PD and SCA patients moved faster and slower respectively.The Finger Tapping task measures the fine motor skills of an individual. Data is collected for tapping speed, tapping regularity and tapping errors. The inter-tap interval is also often recorded during the task.The following sample graph compares the performance of patients with mild spastic diplegia in a single and double key Tapping Task.The following sample graph compares the performance of patients with mild spastic diplegia in a single and double key Tapping Task.Strengths
The Tapping Speed Test is a simple task used in the assessment of fine motor skills. The task can also be used to observe procedural learning. The inter-tap interval can be used as a differentiating parameter in the diagnosis of movement disorders (Stegemöller et al., 2015). The task is easy to adapt to different needs of an investigation and can be evolved to assess different aspects of hand movements.
The task may become difficult to administer in individuals who are unable to cooperate due to cognitive or mental deficits. Factors such as age, sex, hand-dominance can also impact the test results.
- Motor control refers to the activation and coordination of muscles and limbs to perform motor activities.
- The Tapping Speed assessment performed via Finger Tapping task assess motor control and the integrity of the neuromuscular system.
- The participant places their palm flat on the surface with their finger stretched out and placed over the sensor or the button.
- The task usually lasts for 10 seconds. Some studies conduct the task for 30 seconds.
- Data is collected for tapping speed, tapping regularity, tapping errors and inter-tap interval.
Gao F, Mei X, Chen AC (2015). Delayed finger tapping and cognitive responses in preterm-born male teenagers with mild spastic diplegia. Pediatr Neurol. 52(2):206-13. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2014.04.012.
Hubel KA, Yund EW, Herron TJ, Woods DL (2013). Computerized measures of finger tapping: reliability, malingering and traumatic brain injury. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 35(7):745-58. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2013.824070.
Munro CA, Longmire CF, Drye LT, Martin BK, Frangakis CE, Meinert CL, Mintzer JE, Porsteinsson AP, Rabins PV, Rosenberg PB, Schneider LS, Weintraub D, Lyketsos CG (2012). Cognitive outcomes after sertaline treatment in patients with depression of Alzheimer disease. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 20(12):1036-44. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31826ce4c5.
Ritter, S. (2014). Apples Research Kit Development Framework for iPhone Apps Enables Innovative Approaches to Medical Research Data Collection. Journal of Clinical Trials, 05(02). doi:10.4172/2167-0870.1000e120
Stegemöller EL, Uzochukwu J, Tillman MD, McFarland NR, Subramony SH, Okun MS, Hass CJ (2015). Repetitive finger movement performance differs among Parkinson’s disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and spinocerebellar ataxia. J Clin Mov Disord. 2:6. doi: 10.1186/s40734-014-0015-y.