We studied the mechanical variables (the grip force and the total moment of force) and multidigit synergies at two levels (the virtual finger-thumb level, VF-TH, and the individual finger level, IMRL) of a hypothetical control hierarchy during accurate rotation of a hand-held instrumented handle. Synergies were defined as covaried changes in elemental variables (forces and moments of force) that stabilize the output at a particular level. Indices of multidigit synergies showed higher values at the hierarchically higher level (VF-TH) for both normal and tangential forces. The moment of force was stabilized at both hierarchical levels during the steady-state phases but not during the movement. The results support the principles of superposition and of mechanical advantage. They also support an earlier hypothesis on an inherent tradeoff between synergies at the two hierarchical levels, although the controller showed more subtle and versatile synergic control than the one hypothesized earlier.
The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.