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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.