The effect of functional electrical stimulation on self-concept, locus-of-control, anxiety and depression in spinal cord injured patients

Sydna M Bernstein, Pace University


The purpose of this study was to empirically investigate the anecdotal claims regarding the psychological benefits of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) for spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. FES referred to computer-controlled electrical stimulation to muscle groups in the paralyzed legs of paraplegics and quadriplegics in order to move muscles in such a way as to exercise them. Studies have suggested that aerobic activities promote positive psychological effects. Hypotheses proposed that FES exercise would increase self-concept, focus control of reinforcement inward, decrease anxiety, and decrease depression. This investigation contrasted responses of 19 SCI white male outpatients participating in a regular FES exercise program (Treatment Group), with the responses of 14 of their counterparts on the waiting list for the treatment (Waiting List Group). Patients were administered standardized paper and pencil tests in an individual structured interview. The instruments were the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, The Internal-External Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory. In addition, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised and a demographic questionnaire were administered. In order to analyze the difference between the groups as measured by the scales, the Student's t test was employed. The Treatment Group did not evidence a signficant difference from the Waiting List Group on the psychological dimensions of self-concept, locus of control, anxiety, and depression. Within self-concept, however, two subscales did differ significantly in favor of the treatment group. In addition, auxiliary analyses showed quadriplegics with higher self-concept and state anxiety than paraplegics. Within self-concept, again, several subscales differed significantly in favor of the Treatment Group when analyzed within the diagnoses of paraplegia and quadriplegia. A pattern began to emerge that suggested the FES exercise did enhance some aspects of self-concept, especially for the quadriplegics. Nonsignificant findings were discussed in light of the equivalence between the Treatment and Waiting List Groups, interviewer/subject bias, and instrumentation. The four psychological components, as well as auxiliary findings, were further evaluated. Incorporated were implications for further research and rehabilitation recommendations.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Rehabilitation|Therapy|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Bernstein, Sydna M, "The effect of functional electrical stimulation on self-concept, locus-of-control, anxiety and depression in spinal cord injured patients" (1991). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9207697.



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