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  • Author: Mark L. Latash x
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Adriana M. Degani, Alessander Danna-Dos-Santos and Mark L. Latash

We tested the hypothesis that a sequence of mechanical events occurs preceding a step that scales in time and magnitude as a whole in a task-specific manner, and is a reflection of a “motor program.” Young subjects made a step under three speed instructions and four tasks: stepping straight ahead, down a stair, up a stair, and over an obstacle. Larger center-of-pressure (COP) and force adjustments in the anteriorposterior direction and smaller COP and force adjustments in the mediolateral direction were seen during stepping forward and down a stair, as compared with the tasks of stepping up a stair and over an obstacle. These differences were accentuated during stepping under the simple reaction time instruction. These results speak against the hypothesis of a single motor program that would underlie postural preparation to stepping. They are more compatible with the reference configuration hypothesis of whole-body actions.

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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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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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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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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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Mark L. Latash

Edited by D.J. Glencross and J.P. Piek

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

A hypothesis was proposed that the central nervous system controls force production by the fingers through hypothetical neural commands. The neural commands are scaled between values of 0 to 1, indicating no intentional force production or maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force production, respectively. A matrix of interfinger connections transforms neural commands into finger forces. Two methods have been proposed to compute the interfinger connection matrix. The first method uses only single finger MVC trials and multiplies the interfinger connection matrix by a gain factor. The second method uses a neural network model based on experimental data. The performance of the two methods was compared on the MVC data and on a data set of submaximal forces, collected over a range of total forces and moments of force. The methods were compared in terms of (1) ability to predict finger forces, (2) accuracy of neural command reconstruction, and (3) preserved planarity of force data for submaximal force production task. Both methods did a reasonable job of predicting the total force in multifinger MVC trials; however, the neural network model performed better in regards to all other criteria. Overall, the results indicate that for modeling multifinger interaction the neural network method is preferable.

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Todd C. Pataky, Greg P. Slota, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

During power grasp, the number of local force maxima reflects either the central nervous system’s preferential use of particular hand regions, or anatomical constraints, or both. Previously, both bimodal and trimodal force maxima have been hypothesized for power grasp of a cylindrical handle. Here we measure the number of local force maxima, with a resolution of 4.8°, when performing pushing and pulling efforts in the plane perpendicular to the cylinder’s long axis. Twelve participants produced external forces to eight targets. The number of contacts was defined as the number of local maxima exceeding background variance. A minimum of four and a maximum of five discrete contacts were observed in all subjects at the distal phalanges and metacarpal heads. We thus reject previous hypotheses of bimodal or trimodal force control for cylindrical power grasping. Since we presently observed only 4–5 contacts, which is rather low considering the hand’s kinematic flexibility in the flexion plane, we also reject hypotheses of continuous contact, which are inherent to current grasping taxonomy. A modification to current grasping taxonomy is proposed wherein power grasp contains separate branches for continuous and discrete contacts, and where power and precision grasps are distinguished only by grasp manipulability.

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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.