Coordination between digit forces and positions: Interactions between anticipatory and feedback control

Qiushi Fu, Marco Santello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Humans adjust digit forces to compensate for trial-to-trial variability in digit placement during object manipulation, but the underlying control mechanisms remain to be determined. We hypothesized that such digit position/force coordination was achieved by both visually guided feed-forward planning and haptic-based feedback control. The question arises about the time course of the interaction between these two mechanisms. This was tested with a task in which subjects generated torque (± 70 N·mm) on a virtual object to control a cursor moving to target positions to catch a falling ball, using a virtual reality environment and haptic devices. The width of the virtual object was varied between large (L) and small (S). These object widths result in significantly different horizontal digit relative positions and require different digit forces to exert the same task torque. After training, subjects were tested with random sequences of L and S widths with or without visual information about object width. We found that visual cues allowed subjects to plan manipulation forces before contact. In contrast, when visual cues were not available to predict digit positions, subjects implemented a "default" digit force plan that was corrected after digit contact to eventually accomplish the task. The time course of digit forces revealed that force development was delayed in the absence of visual cues. Specifically, the appropriate digit force adjustments were made 250- 300 ms after initial object contact. This result supports our hypothesis and further reveals that haptic feedback alone is sufficient to implement digit force-position coordination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1519-1528
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014


  • Feed-forward control
  • Haptic feedback
  • Manipulation
  • Virtual reality
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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