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Latash, M. L., Friedman, J., Kim, S.W., Feldman, A.G., Zatsiorsky, V.M. (2010). Prehension Synergies and Control with Referent Hand Configurations. Exp Brain Res, 202(1), 213–229.
Abstract: We used the framework of the equilibrium-point hypothesis (in its updated form based on the notion of referent configuration) to investigate the multi-digit synergies at two levels of a hypothetical hierarchy involved in prehensile actions. Synergies were analyzed at the thumb-virtual finger level (virtual finger is an imaginary digit with the mechanical action equivalent to that of the four actual fingers) and at the individual finger level. The subjects performed very quick vertical movements of a handle into a target. A load could be attached off-center to provide a pronation or supination torque. In a few trials, the handle was unexpectedly fixed to the table and the digits slipped off the sensors. In such trials, the hand stopped at a higher vertical position and rotated into pronation or supination depending on the expected torque. The aperture showed non-monotonic changes with a large, fast decrease and further increase, ending up with a smaller distance between the thumb and the fingers as compared to unperturbed trials. Multi-digit synergies were quantified using indices of co-variation between digit forces and moments of force across unperturbed trials. Prior to the lifting action, high synergy indices were observed at the individual finger level while modest indices were observed at the thumb-virtual finger level. During the lifting action, the synergies at the individual finger level disappeared while the synergy indices became higher at the thumb-virtual finger level. The results support the basic premise that, within a given task, setting a referent configuration may be described with a few referent values of variables that influence the equilibrium state, to which the system is attracted. Moreover, the referent configuration hypothesis can help interpret the data related to the trade-off between synergies at different hierarchical levels.
Awasthi, B., Sowman, P. F., Friedman, J., & Williams, M. A. (2013). Distinct spatial scale sensitivities for early categorisation of Faces and Places: Neuromagnetic and Behavioural Findings. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(91).
Abstract: Research exploring the role of spatial frequencies in rapid stimulus detection and categorisation report flexible reliance on specific spatial frequency bands. Here, through a set of behavioural and magnetoencephalography (MEG) experiments, we investigated the role of low spatial frequency (LSF)(25 cpf) information during the categorisation of faces and places. Reaction time measures revealed significantly faster categorisation of faces driven by LSF information, while rapid categorisation of places was facilitated by HSF information. The MEG study showed significantly earlier latency of the M170 component for LSF faces compared to HSF faces. Moreover, the M170 amplitude was larger for LSF faces than for LSF places, whereas the reverse pattern was evident for HSF faces and places. These results suggest that spatial frequency modulates the processing of category specific information for faces and places.
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.
Friedman, J., & Korman, M. (2016). Offline Optimization of the Relative Timing of Movements in a Sequence Is Blocked by Retroactive Behavioral Interference. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 10, 623.
Abstract: Acquisition of motor skills often involves the concatenation of single movements into sequences. Along the course of learning, sequential performance becomes progressively faster and smoother, presumably by optimization of both motor planning and motor execution. Following its encoding during training, “how-to” memory undergoes consolidation, reflecting transformations in performance and its neurobiological underpinnings over time. This offline post-training memory process is characterized by two phenomena: reduced sensitivity to interference and the emergence of delayed, typically overnight, gains in performance. Here, using a training protocol that effectively induces motor sequence memory consolidation, we tested temporal and kinematic parameters of performance within (online) and between (offline) sessions, and their sensitivity to retroactive interference. One group learned a given finger-to-thumb opposition sequence (FOS), and showed robust delayed (consolidation) gains in the number of correct sequences performed at 24 h. A second group learned an additional (interference) FOS shortly after the first and did not show delayed gains. Reduction of touch times and inter-movement intervals significantly contributed to the overall offline improvement of performance overnight. However, only the offline inter-movement interval shortening was selectively blocked by the interference experience. Velocity and amplitude, comprising movement time, also significantly changed across the consolidation period but were interference-insensitive. Moreover, they paradoxically canceled out each other. Current results suggest that shifts in the representation of the trained sequence are subserved by multiple processes: from distinct changes in kinematic characteristics of individual finger movements to high-level, temporal reorganization of the movements as a unit. Each of these processes has a distinct time course and a specific susceptibility to retroactive interference. This multiple-component view may bridge the gap in understanding the link between the behavioral changes, which define online and offline learning, and the biological mechanisms that support those changes.