The role of social interactions in motor performance: Feasibility study toward enhanced motivation in telerehabilitation

Roni Barak Ventura, Shinnosuke Nakayama, Preeti Raghavan, Oded Nov, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Robot-mediated telerehabilitation has the potential to provide patient-tailored cost-effective rehabilitation. However, compliance with therapy can be a problem that undermines the prospective advantages of telerehabilitation technologies. Lack of motivation has been identified as a major factor that hampers compliance. Exploring various motivational interventions, the integration of citizen science activities in robotics-based rehabilitation has been shown to increase patients' motivation to engage in otherwise tedious exercises by tapping into a vast array of intrinsic motivational drivers. Patient engagement can be further enhanced by the incorporation of social interactions. Objective: Herein, we explored the possibility of bolstering engagement in physical therapy by leveraging cooperation among users in an environmental citizen science project. Specifically, we studied how the integration of cooperation into citizen science influences user engagement, enjoyment, and motor performance. Furthermore, we investigated how the degree of interdependence among users, such that is imposed through independent or joint termination (JT), affects participation in citizen science-based telerehabilitation. Methods: We developed a Web-based citizen science platform in which users work in pairs to classify images collected by an aquatic robot in a polluted water canal. The classification was carried out by labeling objects that appear in the images and trashing irrelevant labels. The system was interfaced by a haptic device for fine motor rehabilitation. We recruited 120 healthy volunteers to operate the platform. Of these volunteers, 98 were cooperating in pairs, with 1 user tagging images and the other trashing labels. The other 22 volunteers performed both tasks alone. To vary the degree of interdependence within cooperation, we implemented independent and JTs. Results: We found that users' engagement and motor performance are modulated by their assigned task and the degree of interdependence. Motor performance increased when users were subjected to independent termination (P=.02), yet enjoyment decreased when users were subjected to JT (P=.005). A significant interaction between the type of termination and the task was found to influence productivity (P<.001) as well as mean speed, peak speed, and path length of the controller (P=.01, P=.006, and P<.001, respectively). Conclusions: Depending on the type of termination, cooperation was not always positively associated with engagement, enjoyment, and motor performance. Therefore, enhancing user engagement, satisfaction, and motor performance through cooperative citizen science tasks relies on both the degree of interdependence among users and the perceived nature of the task. Cooperative citizen science may enhance motivation in robotics-based telerehabilitation, if designed attentively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12708
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Citizen science
  • Physical therapy
  • Social interactions
  • Telerehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of social interactions in motor performance: Feasibility study toward enhanced motivation in telerehabilitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this