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Jae Kun Shim, Jeffrey Hsu, Sohit Karol and Ben F. Hurley

The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of finger strength training (ST) on finger strength, independence, force control, and adaptations in multifinger coordination. Thirty-three healthy, young (23.0 ± 2.9 years) subjects were randomly assigned into 4 groups. Group 1 (G1) trained all fingers together, Group 2 (G2) trained individual fingers without restricting movements of the non-training fingers, and Group 3 (G3) trained individual fingers while restricting the movement of the nontraining fingers. The control group (G0) did not undergo any training. A vertically hanging load was attached to a spring that passed through a pulley. The other end of the string extended to the horizontal plane and had thimbles attached to it. Subjects were asked to rest their forearm on the table and lift the load by inserting their fingers into the thimbles. The training protocol lasted 6 weeks. Identical experimental tests were conducted 4 times, biweekly, across the 6-week training. Force coordination and moment coordination, defined as synergies stabilizing the resultant force and the resultant moment of all finger forces, in a multifinger pressing task were quantified using the Uncontrolled Manifold (UCM) analysis. The UCM analysis allocates motor variability into two components, one in the null space of a motor task and the other perpendicular to the null space. During multifinger pressing tasks, multifinger coordination exists when the variability in the null space is greater than the variability in the subspace perpendicular to the null space. The multifinger coordination was quantified as the difference between the variance within the null space and that perpendicular to the null space, normalized by the total variance. Thus, the coordination measure in our analysis is a unitless variable. A greater coordination measure indicates better multifinger coordination. Moment-stabilizing multifinger coordination increased only in G1 (from 1.197 ± 0.004 to 1.323 ± 0.002, p < .01), and force-stabilizing coordination increased only in G3 (from 0.207 ± 0.106 to 0.727 ± 0.071, p < .01). Finger strength, measured by the maximal voluntary finger force of pressing 4 fingers, increased significantly in all training groups (from 103.7 ± 3.1 N to 144.0 ± 3.6 N for training groups, all p < .001). Finger-force errors, quantified by the deviations between the required force profiles (20% maximal voluntary force) presented to the subjects and the actual force produced, decreased significantly with ST for all the training groups (all p < .05). Finger independence also decreased significantly for all the training groups (p < .05). We conclude that the neuromuscular system adaptations to multifinger ST are specific to the training protocol being employed, yielding improvements in different types of multifinger coordination (i.e., coordination-specific ST), finger-force control, and finger strength and a decrease in finger independence. Finger independence, depending on the nature of the task, might or might not be favorable to certain task performances. We suggest that ST protocol should be carefully designed for the improvement of specific coordination of multieffector motor systems.

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Jaebum Park, Brian S. Baum, You-Sin Kim, Yoon Hyuk Kim and Jae Kun Shim

The aim of this study was to test the mechanical advantage (MA) hypothesis in multifinger torque production tasks in humans: fingers with longer moment arms produce greater force magnitudes during torque production tasks. There were eight experimental conditions: two prehension types determined by different mechanical constraints (i.e., fixed- and free-object prehension) with two torque directions (supination and pronation) and two torque magnitudes (0.24 and 0.48 N·m). The subjects were asked to produce prescribed torques during the fixed-object prehension or to maintain constant position of the free hand-held object against external torques. The index of MA was calculated for agonist and antagonist fingers, which produce torques in the same and opposite directions to the target torques, respectively. Within agonist fingers, the fingers with longer moment arms produced greater grasping forces while within antagonist fingers, the fingers with shorter moment arms produced greater forces. The MA index was greater in the fixed-object condition as compared with the free-object condition. The MA index was greater in the pronation condition than in the supination condition. This study supports the idea that the CNS utilizes the MA of agonist fingers, but not of antagonist fingers, during torque production in both fixed- and free-object conditions.

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Alexander W. Hooke, Sohit Karol, Jaebum Park, Yoon Hyuk Kim and Jae Kun Shim

The purpose of this study was to investigate central nervous system (CNS) strategies for controlling multifinger forces during a circle-drawing task. Subjects drew 30 concentric, discontinuous clockwise and counter clockwise circles, at self and experimenter-set paces. The three-dimensional trajectory of the pen’s center of mass and the three-dimensional forces and moments of force at each contact between the hand and the pen were recorded. Uncontrolled Manifold Analysis was used to quantify the synergies between pen-hand contact forces in radial, tangential and vertical directions. Results showed that synergies in the radial and tangential components were significantly stronger than in the vertical component. Synergies in the clockwise direction were significantly stronger than the counterclockwise direction in the radial and vertical components. Pace was found to be insignificant under any condition.

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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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Mitsuo Otsuka, Jae Kun Shim, Toshiyuki Kurihara, Shinsuke Yoshioka, Makoto Nokata and Tadao Isaka

In sprinters with different levels of block acceleration, we investigated differences in their three-dimensional force application in terms of the magnitude, direction, and impulse of the ground reaction force (GRF) during the starting block phase and subsequent two steps. Twenty-nine participants were divided into three groups (well-trained, trained, and nontrained sprinters) based on their mean anteroposterior block acceleration and experience with a block start. The participants sprinted 10 m from a block start with maximum effort. Although the mean net resultant GRF magnitude did not differ between the well-trained and trained sprinters, the net sagittal GRF vector of the well-trained sprinters was leaned significantly further forward than that of the trained and nontrained sprinters during the starting block phase. In contrast, during the starting block phase and the subsequent steps, the transverse GRF vectors which cause the anteroposterior and mediolateral acceleration of the whole-body was directed toward the anterior direction more in the well-trained sprinters as compared with the other sprinters. Therefore, a more forward-leaning GRF vector and a greater anteroposterior GRF may particularly allow well-trained sprinters to generate a greater mean anteroposterior block acceleration than trained and nontrained sprinters.

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Brian S. Baum, Hiroaki Hobara, Yoon Hyuk Kim and Jae Kun Shim

Individuals with lower extremity amputation must adapt the mechanical interactions between the feet and ground to account for musculoskeletal function loss. However, it is currently unknown how individuals with amputation modulate three-dimensional ground reaction forces (GRFs) when running. This study aimed to understand how running with running-specific prostheses influences three-dimensional support forces from the ground. Eight individuals with unilateral transtibial amputations and 8 control subjects ran overground at 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 m/s. Ten force plates measured GRFs at 1000 Hz. Peak and average GRFs and impulses in each plane were compared between limbs and groups. Prosthetic limbs generated reduced vertical impulses, braking forces and impulses, and mediolateral forces while generating similar propulsive impulses compared with intact and control limbs. Intact limbs generated greater peak and average vertical forces and average braking forces than control subjects’ limbs. These data indicate that the nonamputated limb experiences elevated mechanical loading compared with prosthetic and control limbs. This may place individuals with amputation at greater risk of acute injury or joint degeneration in their intact limb. Individuals with amputation adapted to running-specific prosthesis force production limitations by generating longer periods of positive impulse thus producing propulsive impulses equivalent to intact and control limbs.

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Tim L.A. Doyle, Ronald W. Davis, Brendan Humphries, Eric L. Dugan, Bryon G. Horn, Jae Kun Shim and Robert U. Newton

A number of researchers have long questioned systems used for classifying athletes with disabilities. Wheelchair basketball players have gained much attention from researchers. Despite this, no change to the NWBA classification system has been made since it was first adopted in 1984. This study investigated the NWBA classification system. At two summer basketball camps, 46 players were tested to assess player sprint performance and stratification under the NWBA medical classification system. The group consisted of Class 1, 2, and 3 players. Electronic timing gates were used to collect 20 meter sprint-times. Results indicate that Class 1 players were significantly slower compared to Class 2 and 3 players (p < .05) with no difference between Class 2 and 3. The results of this study support a change to this system.