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Joel R. Martin, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

This study investigated the effects of modifying contact finger forces in one direction—normal or tangential—on the entire set of the contact forces, while statically holding an object. Subjects grasped a handle instrumented with finger force-moment sensors, maintained it at rest in the air, and then slowly: (1) increased the grasping force, (2) tried to spread fingers apart, and (3) tried to squeeze fingers together. Analysis was mostly performed at the virtual finger (VF) level (the VF is an imaginable finger that generates the same force and moment as the four fingers combined). For all three tasks there were statistically significant changes in the VF normal and tangential forces. For finger spreading/squeezing the tangential force neutral point was located between the index and middle fingers. We conclude that the internal forces are regulated as a whole, including adjustments in both normal and tangential force, instead of only a subset of forces (normal or tangential). The effects of such factors as EFFORT and TORQUE were additive; their interaction was not statistically significant, thus supporting the principle of superposition in human prehension.

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Mark L. Latash, John P. Scholz and Gregor Schöner

Driven by recent empirical studies, we offer a new understanding of the degrees of freedom problem, and propose a refined concept of synergy as a neural organization that ensures a one-to-many mapping of variables providing for both stability of important performance variables and flexibility of motor patterns to deal with possible perturbations and/or secondary tasks. Empirical evidence is reviewed, including a discussion of the operationalization of stability/flexibility through the method of the uncontrolled manifold. We show how this concept establishes links between the various accounts for how movement is organized in redundant effector systems.

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Tarkeshwar Singh, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

The effects of muscle fatigue on the stability of precision grasps are not well known. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of exercise-induced fatigue of a digit on prehension synergies in a static precision grasp. One group of participants performed the fatiguing exercise using the thumb (group-thumb) and the second group performed the exercise using the index finger (group-index). Grasp force and load-resisting force-stabilizing synergies were weaker during fatigue for group-thumb and showed no significant change for group-index. These results indicate that fatiguing the thumb compromises the stability of the precision grasp more than when the index finger is fatigued. Our results support the idea of hierarchical organization of prehension control. We proffer an explanation of our results based on two control constructs: a) Principle of superposition. This principle states that prehension can be viewed as a superposition of two independent processes controlling the slip and the tilt of the object respectively; and b) The referent configuration hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, the neural control of actions is associated with defining a set of referent values for task-related coordinates (given an external force field) defined as the referent configuration.

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Gregory P. Slota, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

When grasping and manipulating objects, the central controller utilizes the mechanical advantage of the normal forces of the fingers for torque production. Whether the same is valid for tangential forces is unknown. The main purpose of this study was to determine the patterns of finger tangential forces and the use of mechanical advantage as a control mechanism when dealing with objects of nonuniform finger positioning. A complementary goal was to explore the interaction of mechanical advantage (moment arm) and the role a finger has as a torque agonist/antagonist with respect to external torques (±0.4 N m). Five 6-df force/torque transducers measured finger forces while subjects held a prism handle (6 cm width × 9 cm height) with and without a single finger displaced 2 cm (handle width). The effect of increasing the tangential moment arm was significant (p < .01) for increasing tangential forces (in >70% of trials) and hence creating greater moments. Thus, the data provides evidence that the grasping system as a rule utilizes mechanical advantage for generating tangential forces. The increase in tangential force was independent of whether the finger was acting as a torque agonist or antagonist, revealing their effects to be additive.

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Daniela Mattos, Joshua Kuhl, John P. Scholz and Mark L. Latash

The concept of motor equivalent combinations of arm muscles, or M-modes, was investigated during reaching to insert a pointer into a cylindrical target with and without an elbow perturbation. Five M-modes across 15 arm/scapula muscles were identified by principal component analysis with factor extraction. The relationship between small changes in the M-modes and changes in the position/orientation of the pointer were investigated by linear regression analyses. The results revealed a motor equivalent organization of the M-modes for perturbed compared with nonperturbed reaches, both with respect to hand position and orientation, especially in the first 100-ms postperturbation. Similar findings were obtained for motor equivalence computed based on changes in the joint configuration, although the kinematically defined motor equivalence was stronger for pointer orientation. The results support the hypothesis that the nervous system organizes muscles into M-modes and flexibly scales M-mode activation to preserve stable values of variables directly related to performance success.

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Tao Zhou, Stanislaw Solnik, Yen-Hsun Wu and Mark L. Latash

We tested a prediction that equifinality at the task level may be accompanied by violations of equifinality within the redundant set of elemental variables. Seated subjects grasped a handle, and occupied an initial arm configuration against a bias force produced by a robot. The robot applied a smooth, transient change in the force (perturbation). The subjects were instructed “not to intervene voluntarily” with hand deviations. After the robot force returned to the bias value, the hand returned close to the original position and orientation. Analysis of across-trials variance in the joint configuration space confirmed that most variance of the difference between the initial and final states was compatible with unchanged values of both hand position and orientation. These results provide direct support for the theoretical scheme that combines the ideas of synergies and control with referent configurations.

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Adriana V. Savescu, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

This article proposes a technique to calculate the coefficient of friction for the fingertip– object interface. Twelve subjects (6 males and 6 females) participated in two experiments. During the first experiment (the imposed displacement method), a 3-D force sensor was moved horizontally while the subjects applied a specified normal force (4 N, 8 N, 12 N) on the surface of a sensor covered with different materials (sandpaper, cotton, rayon, polyester, and silk).The normal force and the tangential force (i.e., the force due to the sensor motion) were recorded. The coefficient of frictiond) was calculated as the ratio between the tangential force and the normal force. In the second experiment (the beginning slip method), a small instrumented object was gripped between the index finger and the thumb, held stationary in the air, and then allowed to drop. The weight (200 g, 500 g, and 1,000 g) and the surface (sandpaper, cotton, rayon, polyester, and silk) in contact with the digits varied across trials. The same sensor as in the first experiment was used to record the normal force (in a horizontal direction) and the tangential force (in the vertical direction). The slip force (i.e., the minimal normal force or grip force necessary to prevent slipping) was estimated as the force at the moment when the object just began to slip. The coefficient of friction was calculated as the ratio between the tangential force and the slip force. The results show that (1) the imposed displacement method is reliable; (2) except sandpaper, for all other materials the coefficient of friction did not depend on the normal force; (3) the skin–sandpaper coefficient of friction was the highest µd = 0.96 ± 0.09 (for 4-N normal force) and the skin–rayon rayon coefficient of friction was the smallest µd = 0.36 ± 0.10; (4) no significant difference between the coefficients of friction determined with the imposed displacement method and the beginning slip method was observed. We view the imposed displacement technique as having an advantage as compared with the beginning slip method, which is more cumbersome (e.g., dropped object should be protected from impacts) and prone to subjective errors owing to the uncertainty in determining the instance of the slip initiation (i.e., impeding sliding).

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Simon R. Goodman, Mark L. Latash, Sheng Li and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

This study involved an optimization, numerical analysis of a network for two-hand multi-finger force production, analogous in its structure to the double-representation mirror image (DoReMi) network suggested earlier based on neurophysiological data on cortical finger representations. The network accounts for phenomena of enslaving (unintended finger force production), force deficit (smaller force produced by a finger in multi-finger tasks as compared to its single-finger task), and bilateral deficit (smaller forces produced in two-hand tasks as compared to one-hand tasks). Matrices of connection weights were computed, and the results of optimization were compared to the experimental data on finger forces during one- and two-hand maximal force production (MVC) tasks. The network was able to reproduce the experimental data in two-hand experiments with high accuracy (average error was 1.2 N); it was also able to reproduce findings in one-hand multi-finger MVC tasks, which were not used during the optimization procedure, although with a somewhat higher error (2.8 N). Our analysis supports the feasibility of the DoReMi network. It suggests that within-a-hand force deficit and bilateral force deficit are phenomena of different origins whose effects add up. Is also supports a hypothesis that force deficit and enslaving have different neural origins.

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Jozsef Laczko, Slobodan Jaric, Jozsef Tihanyi, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

Jerk (time derivative of acceleration) of the endpoint of a multi-joint kinematic chain can be represented as the sum of terms related to jerks, accelerations, and velocities in individual joints. We investigated the relative contribution of these terms during simulations of planar movement of a 3-segment kinematic chain and also during unconstrained movements at different velocities, over different amplitudes, and with different intentionally changed curvature. Our results demonstrate that the term related to individual joint jerks dominates in the total endpoint jerk. This domination was particularly strong during voluntary movements and was not as striking during the simulations based on 5th-order polynomial functions for individual joint trajectories. Thus, the minimum-jerk criterion for multi-joint movements can be well approximated by minimization of the jerk-related terms for individual joints. The decomposition of endpoint jerk into its terms shows potential limitations of the commonly used 5th-order polynomial modeling for describing voluntary multi-joint movements.

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Sheng Li, Frederic Danion, Mark L. Latash, Zong-Ming Li and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

One purpose of the present study was to compare indices of finger coordination during force production by the fingers of the right hand and of the left hand. The other purpose was to study the relation between the phenomena of force deficit during multifinger one-hand tasks and of bilateral force deficit during two-hand tasks. Thirteen healthy right-handed subjects performed maximal voluntary force production tasks with different finger combinations involving fingers of one hand or of both hands together. Fingers of the left hand demonstrated lower peak forces, higher indices of finger enslaving, and similar indices of force deficit. Significant bilateral effects during force production by fingers of both hands acting in parallel were seen only during tasks involving different fingers or finger groups in the two hands (asymmetrical tasks). The bilateral deficit effects were more pronounced in the hand whose fingers generated higher forces. These findings suggest a generalization of an earlier introduced principle of minimization of secondary moments. They also may be interpreted as suggesting that bilateral force deficit is task-specific and may reflect certain optimization principles.