Dexterous Object Manipulation Requires Context-Dependent Sensorimotor Cortical Interactions in Humans

Pranav J. Parikh, Justin M. Fine, Marco Santello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Dexterous object manipulation is a hallmark of human evolution and a critical skill for everyday activities. A previous work has used a grasping context that predominantly elicits memory-based control of digit forces by constraining where the object should be grasped. For this "constrained" grasping context, the primary motor cortex (M1) is involved in storage and retrieval of digit forces used in previous manipulations. In contrast, when choice of digit contact points is allowed ("unconstrained" grasping), behavioral studies revealed that forces are adjusted, on a trial-to-trial basis, as a function of digit position. This suggests a role of online feedback of digit position for force control. However, despite the ubiquitous nature of unconstrained hand-object interactions in activities of daily living, the underlying neural mechanisms are unknown. Using noninvasive brain stimulation, we found the role of primary motor cortex (M1) and somatosensory cortex (S1) to be sensitive to grasping context. In constrained grasping, M1 but not S1 is involved in storing and retrieving learned digit forces and position. In contrast, in unconstrained grasping, M1 and S1 are involved in modulating digit forces to position. Our findings suggest that the relative contribution of memory and online feedback modulates sensorimotor cortical interactions for dexterous manipulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3087-3101
Number of pages15
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2020


  • feedback
  • grasping
  • memory
  • sensorimotor control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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