Compared with the control of precision grips involving the thumb and one or two fingers, the control of grasping using the entire hand involves a larger number of degrees of freedom that has to be controlled simultaneously, and it introduces indeterminacies in the distribution of grip forces suitable for holding an object. We studied the control of five-digit grasping by measuring contact forces when subjects lifted, held, and replaced a manipulandum. This study focused primarily on the patterns of coordination among the normal forces exerted by each of the digits, assessed by varying the center of mass of the manipulandum. The force patterns during the lift and hold phases were modulated as a function of the location of the center of mass. A frequency domain analysis revealed a consistent temporal synergy by which digits tended to exert normal forces in phase with each other across all experimental conditions. This tendency for in-phase covariations by the normal forces exerted by the digits extended over the entire functional frequency range (up to 10 Hz). When the effect of thumb force was removed, a second synergy was revealed in which forces in two fingers could be modulated 180°out of phase (also prevailing throughout the range of frequencies studied). The first synergy suggests the presence of a 'common drive' to all of the extrinsic finger muscles, whereas the second one suggests another input, ultimately resulting in a reciprocally organized pattern of activity of some of these muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-467
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


  • Force Control
  • Grasping
  • Human
  • Muscle synergies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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