Digit position and forces covary during anticipatory control of whole-hand manipulation

Michelle Marneweck, Trevor Lee-Miller, Marco Santello, Andrew M. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Theoretical perspectives on anticipatory planning of object manipulation have traditionally been informed by studies that have investigated kinematics (hand shaping and digit position) and kinetics (forces) in isolation. This poses limitations on our understanding of the integration of such domains, which have recently been shown to be strongly interdependent. Specifically, recent studies revealed strong covariation of digit position and load force during the loading phase of two-digit grasping. Here, we determined whether such digit force-position covariation is a general feature of grasping. We investigated the coordination of digit position and forces during five-digit whole-hand manipulation of an object with a variable mass distribution. Subjects were instructed to prevent object roll during the lift. As found in precision grasping, there was strong trial-to-trial covariation of digit position and force. This suggests that the natural variation of digit position that is compensated for by trial-to-trial variation in digit forces is a fundamental feature of grasp control, and not only specific to precision grasp. However, a main difference with precision grasping was that modulation of digit position to the object’s mass distribution was driven predominantly by the thumb, with little to no modulation of finger position. Modulation of thumb position rather than fingers is likely due to its greater range of motion and therefore adaptability to object properties. Our results underscore the flexibility of the central nervous system in implementing a range of solutions along the digit force-to-position continuum for dexterous manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number461
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticipatory planning
  • Digit position
  • Grasp control
  • Kinematics
  • Kinetics
  • Load force
  • Object manipulation
  • Whole hand manipulation

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