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Shaklai, S., Mimouni-Bloch, A., Levin, M., & Friedman, J. (2017). Development of finger force coordination in children. Experimental Brain Research, 235(12), 3709–3720.
Abstract: Coordination is often observed as body parts moving together. However, when producing force with multiple fingers, the optimal coordination is not to produce similar forces with each finger, but rather for each finger to correct mistakes of other fingers. In this study, we aim to determine whether and how this skill develops in children aged 4-12 years. We measured this sort of coordination using the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis (UCM). We recorded finger forces produced by 60 typically developing children aged between 4 and 12 years in a finger-pressing task. The children controlled the height of an object on a screen by the total amount of force they produced on force sensors. We found that the synergy index, a measure of the relationship between “good” and “bad” variance, increased linearly as a function of age. This improvement was achieved by a selective reduction in “bad” variance rather than an increase in “good” variance. We did not observe differences between males and females, and the synergy index was not able to predict outcomes of upper limb behavioral tests after controlling for age. As children develop between the ages of 4 and 12 years, their ability to produce negative covariation between their finger forces improves, likely related to their improved ability to perform dexterous tasks.
Thorpe, A., Friedman, J., Evans, S., Nesbitt, K., & Eidels, A. (2022). Mouse Movement Trajectories as an Indicator of Cognitive Workload. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 38(15), 1464–1479.
Abstract: Assessing the cognitive impact of user interfaces is a shared focus of human-computer interaction researchers and cognitive scientists. Methods of cognitive assessment based on data derived from the system itself, rather than external apparatus, have the potential to be applied in a range of scenarios. The current study applied methods of analyzing kinematics to mouse movements in a computer-based task, alongside the detection response task, a standard workload measure. Sixty-five participants completed a task in which stationary stimuli were tar;geted using a mouse, with a within-subjects factor of task workload based on the number of targets to be hovered over with the mouse (one/two), and a between-subjects factor based on whether both targets (exhaustive) or just one target (minimum-time) needed to be hovered over to complete a trial when two targets were presented. Mouse movement onset times were slower and mouse movement trajectories exhibited more submovements when two targets were presented, than when one target was presented. Responses to the detection response task were also slower in this condition, indicating higher cognitive workload. However, these differences were only found for participants in the exhaustive condition, suggesting those in the minimum-time condition were not affected by the presence of the second target. Mouse movement trajectory results agreed with other measures of workload and task performance. Our findings suggest this analysis can be applied to workload assessments in real-world scenarios.
Liebermann, D. G., Biess, A., Friedman, J., Gielen, C. C. A. M., & Flash, T. (2006). Intrinsic joint kinematic planning. I: reassessing the Listing's law constraint in the control of three-dimensional arm movements. Exp Brain Res, 171(2), 139–154.
Abstract: This study tested the validity of the assumption that intrinsic kinematic constraints, such as Listing's law, can account for the geometric features of three-dimensional arm movements. In principle, if the arm joints follow a Listing's constraint, the hand paths may be predicted. Four individuals performed 'extended arm', 'radial', 'frontal plane', and 'random mixed' movements to visual targets to test Listing's law assumption. Three-dimensional rotation vectors of the upper arm and forearm were calculated from three-dimensional marker data. Data fitting techniques were used to test Donders' and Listing's laws. The coefficient values obtained from fitting rotation vectors to the surfaces described by a second-order equation were analyzed. The results showed that the coefficients that represent curvature and twist of the surfaces were often not significantly different from zero, particularly not during randomly mixed and extended arm movements. These coefficients for forearm rotations were larger compared to those for the upper arm segment rotations. The mean thickness of the rotation surfaces ranged between approximately 1.7 degrees and 4.7 degrees for the rotation vectors of the upper arm segment and approximately 2.6 degrees and 7.5 degrees for those of the forearm. During frontal plane movements, forearm rotations showed large twist scores while upper arm segment rotations showed large curvatures, although the thickness of the surfaces remained low. The curvatures, but not the thicknesses of the surfaces, were larger for large versus small amplitude radial movements. In conclusion, when examining the surfaces obtained for the different movement types, the rotation vectors may lie within manifolds that are anywhere between curved or twisted manifolds. However, a two-dimensional thick surface may roughly represent a global arm constraint. Our findings suggest that Listing's law is implemented for some types of arm movement, such as pointing to targets with the extended arm and during radial reaching movements.
Park, J., Pazin, N., Friedman, J., Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Latash, M. L. (2014). Mechanical properties of the human hand digits: Age-related differences. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(2), 129–137.
Mechanical properties of human digits may have significant implications for the hand function. We quantified several mechanical characteristics of individual digits in young and older adults.
Digit tip friction was measured at several normal force values using a method of induced relative motion between the digit tip and the object surface. A modified quick-release paradigm was used to estimate digit apparent stiffness, damping, and inertial parameters. The subjects grasped a vertical handle instrumented with force/moment sensors using a prismatic grasp with four digits; the handle was fixed to the table. Unexpectedly, one of the sensors yielded leading to a quick displacement of the corresponding digit. A second-order, linear model was used to fit the force/displacement data.
Friction of the digit pads was significantly lower in older adults. The apparent stiffness coefficient values were higher while the damping coefficients were lower in older adults leading to lower damping ratio. The damping ratio was above unity for most data in young adults and below unity for older adults. Quick release of a digit led to force changes in other digits of the hand, likely due to inertial hand properties. These phenomena of “mechanical enslaving” were smaller in older adults although no significant difference was found in the inertial parameter in the two groups.
The decreased friction and damping ratio present challenges for the control of everyday prehensile tasks. They may lead to excessive digit forces and low stability of the grasped object.
Portnoy, S., Rosenberg, L., Alazraki, T., Elyakim, E., & Friedman, J. (2015). Differences in Muscle Activity Patterns and Graphical Product Quality in Children Copying and Tracing Activities on Horizontal or Vertical Surfaces. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 25(3), 540�547.
Abstract: The observation that a given task, e.g. producing a signature, looks similar when created by different motor commands and different muscles groups is known as motor equivalence. Relatively little data exists regarding the characteristics of motor equivalence in children. In this study, we compared the level of performance when performing a tracing task and copying figures in two common postures: while sitting at a desk and while standing in front of a wall, among preschool children. In addition, we compared muscle activity patterns in both postures. Specifically, we compared the movements of 35 five- to six-year old children, recording the same movements of copying figures and path tracing on an electronic tablet in both a horizontal orientation, while sitting, and a vertical orientation, while standing. Different muscle activation patterns were observed between the postures, however no significant difference in the performance level was found, providing evidence of motor equivalence at this young age. The study presents a straightforward method of assessing motor equivalence that can be extended to other stages of development as well as motor disorders.