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Profiling Somatosensory Impairment after Stroke: Characterizing Common “Fingerprints” of Impairment Using Unsupervised Machine Learning-Based Cluster Analysis of Quantitative Measures of the Upper Limb

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Altered somatosensory function is common among stroke survivors, yet is often poorly characterized. Methods of profiling somatosensation that illustrate the variability in impairment within and across different modalities remain limited. We aimed to characterize post-stroke somatosensation profiles (“fingerprints”) of the upper limb using an unsupervised machine learning cluster analysis to capture hidden relationships between measures of touch, proprioception, and haptic object recognition. Raw data were pooled from six studies where multiple quantitative measures of upper limb somatosensation were collected from stroke survivors (n = 207) using the Tactile Discrimination Test (TDT), Wrist Position Sense Test (WPST) and functional Tactile Object Recognition Test (fTORT) on the contralesional and ipsilesional upper limbs. The Growing Self Organizing Map (GSOM) unsupervised machine learning algorithm was used to generate a topology-preserving two-dimensional mapping of the pooled data and then separate it into clusters. Signature profiles of somatosensory impairment across two modalities (TDT and WPST; n = 203) and three modalities (TDT, WPST, and fTORT; n = 141) were characterized for both hands. Distinct impairment subgroups were identified. The influence of background and clinical variables was also modelled. The study provided evidence of the utility of unsupervised cluster analysis that can profile stroke survivor signatures of somatosensory impairment, which may inform improved diagnosis and characterization of impairment patterns.


We acknowledge support from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia Partnership grant (GNT 1134495); NHMRC Project grant (GNT 1022694); and NHMRC Ideas grant (GNT 2004443) awarded to L.M.C.; and the University of British Columbia Friedman Award for Scholars in Health awarded to B.C.L.


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Brain Sciences





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Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute



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© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (