The hand is one of the most fascinating and sophisticated biological motor systems. The complex biomechanical and neural architecture of the hand poses challenging questions for understanding the control strategies that underlie the coordination of finger movements and forces required for a wide variety of behavioral tasks, ranging from multidigit grasping to the individuated movements of single digits. Hence, a number of experimental approaches, from studies of finger movement kinematics to the recording of electromyographic and cortical activities, have been used to extend our knowledge of neural control of the hand. Experimental evidence indicates that the simultaneous motion and force of the fingers are characterized by coordination patterns that reduce the number of independent degrees of freedom to be controlled. Peripheral and central constraints in the neuromuscular apparatus have been identified that may in part underlie these coordination patterns, simplifying the control of multi-digit grasping while placing certain limitations on individuation of finger movements. We review this evidence, with a particular emphasis on how these constraints extend through the neuromuscular system from the behavioral aspects of finger movements and forces to the control of the hand from the motor cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2293-2300
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Cortex
  • Finger
  • Motor
  • Muscle
  • Tendon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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