Grasping uncertainty: Effects of sensorimotor memories on high-level planning of dexterous manipulation

Jamie R. Lukos, Jason Y. Cho, Marco Santello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


For successful object manipulation, the central nervous system must appropriately coordinate digit placement and force distribution. It is known that digit force planning is significantly influenced by previous manipulations even when object properties cannot be predicted on a trial-to-trial basis. We sought to determine whether this effect extends beyond force control to the coordination of digit placement and force. Subjects grasped and lifted an object whose center of mass (CM) was changed unpredictably across trials. Grasp planning was quantified by measuring the torque generated on the object at lift onset. We found that both digit placement and force were systematically affected by the CM experienced on the previous trial. Additionally, the negative covariation between digit forces and positions typically found for predictable CM presentations was also found for unpredictable CM trials. A follow-up experiment revealed that these effects were not dependent on visual feedback of object roll during object lift on the previous trial. We conclude that somatosensory feedback from previous grasp experience alone can affect high-level grasp planning by constraining the relation between digit force and position even when the task behavioral consequences cannot be reliably predicted. As learning of manipulations often involves interactions with objects in novel environments, the present findings are an important step to understanding the control strategies associated with the integration of sensorimotor memories and motor planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2937-2946
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2013


  • Coordination
  • Fingers
  • Hand
  • Learning
  • Sensorimotor memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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