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  • Author: Mark L. Latash x
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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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Mark L. Latash, Jae Kun Shim, Fan Gao and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

We review a series of studies that show stabilization of the moment of a couple produced by a set of digits in many maximal and submaximal accurate force production tasks that have no requirements for the moment. In particular, an unusual and novel multi-digit force production task shows stabilization of the total moment while the total force requires extensive practice to be stabilized. Similar results were obtained in persons with Down syndrome during easier tasks. During prehension, changes in digit forces and coordinates of their points of application suggest the presence of two multi-digit synergies whose purpose is to assure a certain grip force and a certain total moment, respectively. Elderly persons show impaired production of both maximal and submaximal moments that goes beyond their documented loss of muscle force. We conclude that moment production (keeping rotational equilibrium) is a central constraint in a variety of multi-digit tasks that has received little attention. Analysis of digit interaction for moment production during handwriting could signify a major step towards understanding the control of this action.

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Xun Niu, Alexander V. Terekhov, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

The goal of the research is to reconstruct the unknown cost (objective) function(s) presumably used by the neural controller for sharing the total force among individual fingers in multifinger prehension. The cost function was determined from experimental data by applying the recently developed Analytical Inverse Optimization (ANIO) method (Terekhov et al. 2010). The core of the ANIO method is the Theorem of Uniqueness that specifies conditions for unique (with some restrictions) estimation of the objective functions. In the experiment, subjects (n = 8) grasped an instrumented handle and maintained it at rest in the air with various external torques, loads, and target grasping forces applied to the object. The experimental data recorded from 80 trials showed a tendency to lie on a 2-dimensional hyperplane in the 4-dimensional finger-force space. Because the constraints in each trial were different, such a propensity is a manifestation of a neural mechanism (not the task mechanics). In agreement with the Lagrange principle for the inverse optimization, the plane of experimental observations was close to the plane resulting from the direct optimization. The latter plane was determined using the ANIO method. The unknown cost function was reconstructed successfully for each performer, as well as for the group data. The cost functions were found to be quadratic with nonzero linear terms. The cost functions obtained with the ANIO method yielded more accurate results than other optimization methods. The ANIO method has an evident potential for addressing the problem of optimization in motor control.

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Halla B. Olafsdottir, Sun Wook Kim, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

We tested the ability of healthy elderly persons to use anticipatory synergy adjustments (ASAs) prior to a self-triggered perturbation of one of the fingers during a multifinger force production task. An index of a force-stabilizing synergy was computed reflecting covariation of commands to fingers. The subjects produced constant force by pressing with the four fingers of the dominant hand on force sensors against constant upwardly directed forces. The middle finger could be unloaded either by the subject pressing the trigger or unexpectedly by the experimenter. In the former condition, the synergy index showed a drop (interpreted as ASA) prior to the time of unloading. This drop started later and was smaller in magnitude as compared with ASAs reported in an earlier study of younger subjects. At the new steady state, a new sharing pattern of the force was reached. We conclude that aging is associated with a preserved ability to explore the flexibility of the mechanically redundant multifinger system but a decreased ability to use feed-forward adjustments to self-triggered perturbations. These changes may contribute to the documented drop in manual dexterity with age.

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Wei Zhang, Halla B. Olafsdottir, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

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.

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Luis Mochizuki, Marcos Duarte, Alberto Carlos Amadio, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and Mark L. Latash

We investigated changes in postural sway and its fractions associated with manipulations of the dimensions of the support area. Nine healthy adults stood as quietly as possible, with their eyes open, on a force plate as well as on 5 boards with reduced support area. The center of pressure (COP) trajectory was computed and decomposed into rambling (Rm) and trembling (Tr) trajectories. Sway components were quantified using RMS (root mean square) value, average velocity, and sway area. During standing on the force plate, the RMS was larger for the anterior-posterior (AP) sway components than for the mediolateral (ML) components. During standing on boards with reduced support area, sway increased in both directions. The increase was more pronounced when standing on boards with a smaller support area. Changes in the larger dimension of the support area also affected sway, but not as much as changes in the smaller dimension. ML instability had larger effects on indices of sway compared to AP instability. The average velocity of Rm was larger while the average velocity of Tr was smaller in the AP direction vs. the ML direction. The findings can be interpreted within the hypothesis of an active search function of postural sway. During standing on boards with reduced support area, increased sway may by itself lead to loss of balance. The findings also corroborate the hypothesis of Duarte and Zatsiorsky that Rm and Tr reveal different postural control mechanisms.