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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.
Friedman, J., Latash, M. L., & Zatsiorsky, V. M. (2011). Directional variability of the isometric force vector produced by the hand in multi-joint planar tasks. Journal of Motor Behavior, 43(6), 451–463.
Abstract: Numerous studies have examined control of force magnitude, but relatively little research has considered force direction control. In this study, subjects applied isometric forces to a handle and we compared within-trial variability when producing force in different directions. The standard deviation (SD) of the force parallel to the prescribed direction of force production increased linearly with the targeted force level, as did the SD of the force perpendicular to the instructed direction. In contrast, the SD of the angle of force production decreased with increased force level. In the four (of eight) instructed force directions where the endpoint force was generated due to a joint torque in only one joint (either the shoulder or elbow) the principal component axes in force space were well aligned with the prescribed direction of force production. In the other directions, the variance was approximately equal along the two force axes. The variance explained by the first principal component was significantly larger in torque space compared to the force space, and mostly corresponded to positive correlation between the joint torques. Such coordinated changes suggest that the torque variability was mainly due to the variability of the common drive to the muscles serving two joints, although this statement needs to be supported by direct studies of muscle activation in the future.
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.