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Jeroen B.J. Smeets and Eli Brenner

We agree with Robertson that our new view on grasping is a description of motor behavior rather than an exploration into the nature of the neural processing underlying this behavior. However, neurophysiologists might be inspired by our new view to ask other questions, perform other experiments, and analyze these differently. In this way, they could generate new insights about the neural control of grasping.

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Gregory P. Slota, Mark L. Latash and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

When grasping and manipulating objects, the central controller utilizes the mechanical advantage of the normal forces of the fingers for torque production. Whether the same is valid for tangential forces is unknown. The main purpose of this study was to determine the patterns of finger tangential forces and the use of mechanical advantage as a control mechanism when dealing with objects of nonuniform finger positioning. A complementary goal was to explore the interaction of mechanical advantage (moment arm) and the role a finger has as a torque agonist/antagonist with respect to external torques (±0.4 N m). Five 6-df force/torque transducers measured finger forces while subjects held a prism handle (6 cm width × 9 cm height) with and without a single finger displaced 2 cm (handle width). The effect of increasing the tangential moment arm was significant (p < .01) for increasing tangential forces (in >70% of trials) and hence creating greater moments. Thus, the data provides evidence that the grasping system as a rule utilizes mechanical advantage for generating tangential forces. The increase in tangential force was independent of whether the finger was acting as a torque agonist or antagonist, revealing their effects to be additive.

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

In this article, we review a model of the movement-planning processes that people use for direct reaching, reaching around obstacles, and grasping, and we present observations of subjects' repeated movements of the hand to touch 2 target locations, circumventing an intervening obstacle. The model defines an obstacle as a posture that, if adopted, would intersect with any part of the environment (including the actor himself or herself). The model finds a trajectory that is likely to bring the end-effector to me target by means of a one- or two-stage planning process. Each stage exploits the principles of instance retrieval and instance generation. In the first stage, a goal posture is identified, and the trajectory of a direct transition to that posture is tested for collision. If that direct movement has no collision, the movement to the target is immediately executed in joint space. If. however, the direct movement is foreseen to result in a collision, a second planning stage is invoked. The second planning stage identifies a via posture, movement through which will probably avoid the collision. Movement to and from the via posture is then superimposed on the main movement to the target so that the combined movement reaches the target without colliding with intervening obstacles. We describe the details of instance retrieval and instance generation for each of these planning stages and compare the model's performance with the observed kinematics of direct movements as well as movements around an obstacle. Then we suggest how the model might contribute to the study of movements in people with motor disorders such as spastic hemiparesis.

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Ruud C.J. Meulenbroek, David A. Rosenbaum and Jonathan Vaughan

In this paper we describe how a theory of posture-based motion planning recently applied to human grasping may contribute to the understanding of grasping pathology. The theory is implemented as a computer model rendered as a stick-figure animation capable of generating realistic multi-joint grasping movements. As shown here, the model can also be used to simulate grasping movements whose kinematics resemble those of grasps performed by people with spastic hemiparesis. The simulations demonstrate effects of: (a) reduced ranges of motion of arm joints on the size of the reachable workspace, (b) awkward starting postures on me time course of the hand closing around an object, (c) increased costs of joint rotations on movement time, and (d) addition of noise to biphasic joint rotations on the low-velocity phase of wrist transport.

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

This paper presents the background, premises, and results of a model of movement planning. The model's central claims are fourfold: (a) A task is defined by a set of prioritized requirements, or what we call a constraint hierarchy; (b) movement planning works first by specifying a goal posture and then by specifying a movement to that goal posture; (c) movements have characteristic forms; and (d) movements can be shaped through simultaneous performance of different movements, even by the same effector. We review the model and then speculate on its implications for clinical concerns, especially spasticity.

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Geert J.P. Savelsbergh and John Van der Kamp

The Smeets and Brenner view on grasping is simple: grasping is in fact pointing. In our comments we examine the model beyond the reach-to-grasp task namely, by grasping (without reaching) of moving objects and eating. The model fits the data of both tasks. Although generalization of a model to different tasks usually strengthens its acceptance, in the present case it reveals its shortcomings, namely, both tasks include a clear grasping component that is hard to accept as pointing.

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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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Agnès Roby-Brami, Sylvie Fuchs, Mounir Mokhtari and Bernard Bussel

The present study quantified reaching movements in 17 patients with vascular hemiplegia at various stages of recovery and 6 control subjects. The task involved grasping a light cone placed at one of seven positions on a baseboard. 3D analysis of movement was performed. Quantification of the reaching movement in hemiparetic patients showed abnormal features that could be related either directly to the motor impairment or to two kinds of adaptation to the impairment: acquisition of a new motor coordination or acquisition of a new strategy. Two movement strategies were identified in hemiparetic patients. Patients with a predominantly proximal impairment slid their hands toward the target, thus making maximal use of the properties of the environment. Patients with a predominantly distal impairment made a downward grasping movement, which probably used the passive properties of the hand-object contact to ensure grasping. These features contribute to fulfillment of the goal and are thus consistent with the acquisition of adaptive behavior by the hemiparetic patients.

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Karl M. Newell and Paola Cesari

Smeets and Brenner provide a very clear and useful statement of the work that has been stimulated by Jeannerod's 1984 paper but seem more concerned about the viability of model fitting than model assumptions. The theoretical and practical limitations of viewing “grasping as nothing more than pointing” are noted. We reemphasize the importance in prehension of the union of the hand with the object in the act of realizing a task goal.