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David A. Rosenbaum, Ruud J.G. Meulenbroek, Jonathan Vaughan and Catherine Elsinger

The hypothesis introduced by Smeets and Brenner concerning the perpendicular approach of the thumb and index finger during grasping has heuristic value, but it also has limitations. Among the limitations are the following: (a) the approach parameter is not directly testable and it is unclear how the values of deceleration at contact and movement time are set theoretically; (b) it is questionable that motion of the thumb and index finger are independent; (c) reliance on the minimum-jerk account ignores critiques of that account; and (d) the model begs the question of how the effectors proximal to the index finger and thumb are controlled. We briefly review an alternative model that can handle these challenges.

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Jeroen B.J. Smeets and Eli Brenner

Reaching out for an object is often described as consisting of two components that are based on different visual information. Information about the object's position and orientation guides the hand to the object, while information about the object's shape and size determines how the fingers move relative to the thumb to grasp it. We propose an alternative description, which consists of determining suitable positions on the object—on the basis of its shape, surface roughness, and so on—and then moving one's thumb and fingers more or less independently to these positions. We modeled this description using a minimum-jerk approach, whereby the finger and thumb approach their respective target positions approximately orthogonally to the surface. Our model predicts how experimental variables such as object size, movement speed, fragility, and required accuracy will influence the timing and size of the maximum aperture of the hand. An extensive review of experimental studies on grasping showed that the predicted influences correspond to human behavior.

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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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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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Steven Morrison and Karl M. Newell

The relation between limb stiffness and postural tremor in the upper arm was investigated during a pointing task. The task goal was to minimize the amount of motion (tremor) at the index finger under levels of increasing limb stiffness. This study investigated the influence of increasing limb stiffness on the pattern of intra- and interlimb dynamics. The frequency profile of the tremor for all limb segments across all conditions displayed two peaks, one between 2-4 Hz and another between 8-12 Hz. A third, higher frequency component (20-22 Hz) was present in the index finger. Increasing limb stiffness through voluntary co-contraction of antagonistic muscle pairs effectively constrained the segments of the upper limb to increasingly operate as a single biomechanical degree of freedom. Higher levels of limb stiffness typically led to an increase in the frequency and power of the 2-4 and 8-12 Hz peaks. There was also a decrease in the frequency of the 20-22 Hz component of finger tremor. The act of reducing the effective degrees of freedom in joint space through voluntarily stiffening of the upper limbs also resulted in decreased performance as determined by an increase in finger tremor. In the preferred, natural level of limb stiffness, specific intralimb segment relations were observed but there was no significant interlimb coupling. The intralimb segment correlations were characterized by compensatory (out of phase) coupling between the upper arm/forearm and hand/index finger segment pairs of each limb that were organized about the action of the wrist joint. Increasing the degree of limb stiffness led to a decrease in the level of intralimb coupling. The findings suggest that the most efficient mechanism for reducing tremor at the periphery is that of compensatory coupling between relevant intralimb segments with a low level of limb stiffness.

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Nobuyuki Inui

An experiment was conducted to examine the coupling of force variability in bimanual finger tapping sequences with asymmetrical forces. Right-handed participants were trained to produce bimanual finger tapping sequences consisted of an intertap interval of 500 ms and eight force conditions: two alternating force left high, two alternating force right high, two simultaneous force left high, and two simultaneous force right high conditions. During practice, visual force feedback was provided for both hands performing the bimanual tapping sequences. After practice, the participants produced the learned tapping sequences in the absence of feedback. Most importantly, whereas the peak force variability of the nondominant left hand was larger than that of the dominant right hand under the right high conditions, there was no left–right difference under the simultaneous left high conditions. This suggests that under the simultaneous left high conditions, both hemispheres were activated, resulting in overflow in the right hand, and bringing the two force variabilities closer together.

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Sydney Y. Schaefer, Stacey L. DeJong, Kendra M. Cherry and Catherine E. Lang

This study investigated whether grip type and/or task goal influenced reaching and grasping performance in poststroke hemiparesis. Sixteen adults with poststroke hemiparesis and twelve healthy adults reached to and grasped a cylindrical object using one of two grip types (3-finger or palmar) to achieve one of two task goals (hold or lift). Performance of the stroke group was characteristic of hemiparetic limb movement during reach-to-grasp, with more curved handpaths and slower velocities compared with the control group. These effects were present regardless of grip type or task goal. Other measures of reaching (reach time and reach velocity at object contact) and grasping (peak thumb-index finger aperture during the reach and peak grip force during the grasp) were differentially affected by grip type, task goal, or both, despite the presence of hemiparesis, providing new evidence that changes in motor patterns after stroke may occur to compensate for stroke-related motor impairment.

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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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Jin Qin, Matthieu Trudeau, Bryan Buchholz, Jeffrey N. Katz, Xu Xu and Jack T. Dennerlein

Upper extremity kinematics during keyboard use is associated with musculoskeletal health among computer users; however, specific kinematics patterns are unclear. This study aimed to determine the dynamic roles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints during a number entry task. Six subjects typed in phone numbers using their right index finger on a stand-alone numeric keypad. The contribution of each joint of the upper extremity to the fingertip movement during the task was calculated from the joint angle trajectory and the Jacobian matrix of a nine-degree-of-freedom kinematic representation of the finger, hand, forearm and upper arm. The results indicated that in the vertical direction where the greatest fingertip movement occurred, the MCP, wrist, elbow (including forearm) and shoulder joint contributed 10.2%, 55.6%, 27.7% and 6.5%, respectively, to the downward motion of the index finger averaged across subjects. The results demonstrated that the wrist and elbow contribute the most to the fingertip vertical movement, indicating that they play a major role in the keying motion and have a dynamic load beyond maintaining posture.

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Claudine Sherrill and Jean L. Pyfer

Many learning disabled students demonstrate psychological/behavioral and perceptual motor characteristics that affect physical education placement and programming. Among the characteristics exhibited by these students are hyperactivity, disorders of attention, impulsivity, poor self-concept, social imperception, delay in social play development, and deficiencies in body equilibrium, visual motor control, bilateral coordination, repetitive finger movements, and fine motor coordination. Activities found to benefit learning disabled students are jogging, relaxation, highly structured teacher-directed routines, and noncompetitive games, all of which must be carefully sequenced. Testing must be done to determine the type and extent of the learning disabled students’ problems, and activities must be selected on the basis of the results of such tests.