Human Performance Terms

Back Home Up Next

Biomechanics & Movement Science
Medical Rehab Terms
Human Performance Terms
Disability Terms/Concepts & Rehab Research Terminology
Prosthetic-Orthotic-Assistive Techn Terms


N. Human Performance Terminology:




A disorder of learned movement unexplained by deficits in strength, coordination, sensation, or comprehension. 


A disorder of muscle coordination not due to apraxia, weakness, rigidity, spasticity or sensory loss. Caused by lesion of the cerebellum or basal ganglia. Can interfere with a person's ability to walk, talk, eat and to perform other self care tasks.  


The ability to use appropriate righting and equilibrium reactions to maintain an upright position. It is usually tested in sitting and standing positions. 


A process that provides sight or sound information about functions of the body, including blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. By trial and error, one can learn to consciously control these functions.  


A sustained series of rhythmic jerks following quick stretch of a muscle.  

Decerebrate  Posture / Rigidity 

Exaggerated posture or  extension as a result of a lesion to the prepontine area of the brainstem, and is rarely seen fully developed in humans.  

Decorticate Posture 

(Decorticate Rigidity) exaggerated posture of upper extremity flexion and lower extremity extension as a result of a lesion to the mesencephalon or above.  


Difficulty in forming words or speaking them because of weakness of muscles used in speaking. Speech is characterized by slurred, imprecise articulation. Tongue movements are usually labored and the rate of speaking may be very slow. Voice quality may be abnormal, usually excessively nasal; volume may be weak; drooling may occur. Dysarthria may accompany aphasia or occur alone.  


Difficulty in swallowing.  It also includes difficulity in moving material from the mouth to the stomach. This definition also includes problems in positioning food in the mouth.  

Electromyogram (EMG) 

A test that records the responses of muscles to electrical stimulation.  


Lacking muscle tone (soft, “floppy” muscle).

Foot Drop (Drop Foot) 

Plantar flexed posture of the foot caused by paralysis or weakness of the ankle

Gait Training 

Instruction in walking, with or without equipment.  


Weakness, paralysis or loss of movement on one side of the body.  


Increased action of the reflexes. 


A state of less than normal muscle tone. 


Ability to move freely. 


A diagnostic test in which an opaque liquid is injected into the spinal canal, producing an outline of it on X-rays or fluoroscope. Now somewhat outdated by modern imaging diagnostics.  Some dyes are suspected of causing additional neurological problems. 


 Stiffness or inflexibility, inability to bend. 


A state of increased muscle tone with exaggerated tendon reflexes that move or jerk involuntarily. Such uncontrolled muscle activity is caused by excessive reflex activity below the level of lesion. 


The abnormal sensation of moving around in space or of having objects move about the person.  Sometimes used as a synonym for dizziness or light-headedness.

Vital Capacity, Impaired Pulmonary Function 

The measure of air in a full breath. It is an important consideration for people with high-level tetraplegia who also have




Seeing two images of a single object; double vision.  

Discrimination, Sensory 

A process requiring differentiation of two or more stimuli.  


Visual field cut. Blindness for one half of the field of vision. This is not the right or left eye, but the right or left half of vision in each eye.  


 The conscious recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli through association, especially memory. The basis for understanding, learning, knowing and motivation.  

Perceptual Deficits 

 Impaired mental activity such as cognitive processing, emotional response, attention or memory. May result from diffuse brain injury.  


Feeling stimuli which activate sensory organs of the body such as touch, temperature, pressure or pain. Also seeing hearing, smelling and tasting.  

Unilatel neglect

The state in which an individual is perceptually unaware of and inattentive to one side of the body (e.g., due to head injury or stroke).  


The inability to recognize or characterize objects by touch. 


Conscious mental recognition of a sensory stimulus. 


Perception of body movement or position.


The ability to perceive the nature and form of objects by the sense of touch. 

Unilateral neglect  

A disturbance of a person's awareness of space on the side of the body opposite a stroke-causing lesion; often referred to as hemi-inattention.



Abstract Thinking 

 The ability to apply abstract concepts to situations and surroundings.  It is characterized by adaptability in the use of ideas and generalization. 


Inability to understand written language. 


Inability to recall names of objects. Persons with this problem often can speak fluently but have to use other words to describe familiar objects.  

Anterograde Amnesia 

Inability to consolidate information about ongoing events. Difficulty with new learning.  


The loss of ability to communicate orally, through signs, or in writing, or the inability to understand such communications; the loss of language usage ability. The change in language function due to an injury to the cerebral cortex of brain.


The inability to produce voluntary speech due to a deficit in motor (muscle) programming caused by brain damage.  

Attention Deficits 

 Impaired ability to concentrate.  


 The mental process involved in knowing, thinking, learning and judging.  

Cognitive Process 

 Higher mental functioning; learning, memory, imagination, comprehension, decision making. The means by which an individual becomes aware of people, objects and situations in the environment and their subjective, symbolic meaning.  


 A state of profound unconsciousness. A state of unconsciousness from which the person is incapable of any conscious action.  Typically, they do not respond to powerful stimulation; lack of any response to one's environment.  


 The ability of the mind to understand.  


 A violent blow, jarring, shaking or other non penetrating injury to the brain. Frequently, but not always, accompanied by a  loss of consciousness. Also called minor head injury and traumatic brain injury. Slang terms include: having one's "bell rung," and "ding."  


The state of awareness of the self and the environment.  


 Defense mechanism allowing an individual to maintain that a problem has been resolved with an increase in personal competence, although the problem still remains.  It protects against physical or emotional conflict or loss. Many rehab professionals over ascribe denial to their patients. Hoping for functional improvement should not be misunderstood as denying disability 


 An abnormal emotional state in which the individual experiences an exaggerated feeling of sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness, inappropriate and out of proportion to some personal loss or tragedy.  


 Impaired ability to restrain from acting on an impulse or desire.  


 Mental confusion with regard to time, place, personal identity and relationships.  

Encephalography (EEG) 

Non-invasive use of ultrasound waves to record echoes from brain tissue. Used to detect hematoma, tumor or ventricle problems. 


 An exaggerated or abnormal sense of well-being not based on reality.  


 To increase the seriousness of a condition marked by more intense signs or symptoms.  


 A state of exhaustion; the loss of strength or endurance.  


 Emotional reaction to the threat of danger; emotional reaction to immediate and evident danger.  

Flattened Affect 

 Emotionally lacking; listless.  

Glasgow Coma Scale 

A standardized system used to assess the degree of brain impairment and to identify the seriousness of injury in relation to outcome. The system involves three determinants (each evaluated independently by numerical score): eye opening, verbal responses and motor response.  The resultant value indicates the level of consciousness and degree of dysfunction. Scores run from a high of 15 to a low of 3, with a 'mild brain' injury being 13 to 15, and 'moderate' brain injury being 9-12, and a score of 8 or less reflecting a 'severe' brain injury.  


 Emotional instability that may be precipitated by apparently mild stimuli.  

Long Term Memory

 An ability to easily recall feelings, events, ideas and other information which may have happened a long time ago.  


 The ability of the brain to retain and recall information.  

Neuropsychological Assessment 

 An evaluation of the patient's brain functions relating to behavior; based on the results of standardized tests, history, present circumstances, attitudes and the expectations of the patient was well as the patient's behavior during the examination.  


Apathy; disinterest; listlessness.  


Ability of the individual to bring cognitive processes to the consideration of how to accomplish a task.  


The inflections or intonations of speech.  

Self Awareness

 The ability to know and understand one's self.  

Self Monitoring

 The ability to regulate, control and keep track of one's self.  

Speech Dysfunction

 A defect or abnormality of speech.  

Vegetative State

A condition in which the person utters no words and does not follow commands or make any response that is psychologically meaningful. 



Copyright by Jack Winters.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact Jack Winters.
Last updated: January 23, 2001.