We explored adjustments in multi-digit coordinated action on a hand-held object with finger addition and removal. The subjects (n = 7) kept a vertically oriented handle at rest using a prismatic grasp as if holding a glass of liquid and then either added one finger to the grasp, the index (I) or little (L) finger, or removed one finger. Three external torques were applied on the apparatus: clockwise, counterclockwise, and no torque. The individual digit forces and moments were recorded with six-component sensors. The change in grasping force, normal force of the thumb and virtual finger (VF, an imagined finger that generates the same mechanical effect as all fingers together), depended on the function of the manipulated finger, i.e. on whether the finger resisted external torque (torque agonist) or assisted it (torque antagonist). There was a significant increase of the grasping force when an antagonist was added or when an agonist was removed. These force increases were not necessary for slipping prevention: the normal forces prior to the manipulation were large enough to prevent slipping. All other finger manipulations exhibited no significant change in the grip force, except for the antagonist removal during the supination efforts (after removing the I finger the grasping force decreased). In contrast, the changes in the tangential force of the thumb depended on the manipulated finger, not on the finger function with respect to external torque. There was a significant thumb tangential force increase when the I finger was added or when the L finger was removed; opposite changes were seen when the L finger was added or the I finger was removed. The changes of the virtual finger (VF) tangential force were equal and opposite to the thumb tangential force alterations; these opposite changes caused changes in the moments, these forces generated. The changes in the moments of the tangential forces were counterbalanced by the opposite changes in the moments of normal forces such that the total moment remained constant and the handle orientation was maintained. At the level of individual finger (IF) forces two strategies of error compensation were found: (a) local error compensation-the opposite action of the neighboring finger, i.e. force decrease in response to a force increase (finger addition), and vice versa and (b) distant error compensation-similar action by a finger that is a torque antagonist to the manipulated finger. During the transient periods, the changes in the thumb and VF forces were simultaneous and equal in magnitude. The normal forces increased or decreased concurrently while the changes in the tangential forces were opposite in direction. The data support the existence of chain effects in the digit force adjustments to finger addition or removal. We conclude that the digit force adjustments during the object manipulation are controlled mainly in a feed-forward manner. The obtained data agree with the principle of superposition reported previously. The findings agree with earlier reports on the limited ability of CNS to organize synergies at two levels of a control hierarchy simultaneously.
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