The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of changes in the proprioceptive signals induced by muscle vibration on multi-finger interaction and coordination. We hypothesized that unintended force production by non-instructed fingers (enslaving) would increase with muscle vibration while synergy indices during steady-state force production would drop. The framework of the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis was used to quantify indices of multi-finger synergies stabilizing total force during steady-state force production and anticipatory changes in these indices (anticipatory synergy adjustments, ASAs) in preparation to a quick force pulse production with and without hand-muscle vibration at 80 Hz. The dominant hands of twelve healthy right-handed subjects were tested under three conditions: no vibration, vibration of the palmar surface of the hand, and vibration of the forearm applied over the flexor muscles. There were no significant effects of vibration on maximal voluntary force. The magnitude of enslaving was larger during vibration of the hand compared to the other two conditions. During steady-state force production, strong synergies stabilizing total force were seen in all three conditions; however, indices of force-stabilizing synergies were lower during vibration of the hand. Prior to the force pulse initiation, the synergy index started to drop earlier and over a larger magnitude without vibration compared to either vibration condition. Effects of vibration on enslaving and synergy index may be due to diffuse reflex effects of the induced afferent activity on alpha-motoneuronal pools innervating the extrinsic flexor compartments. We conclude that multi-finger synergies are not based on signals from muscle receptors. The smaller synergy indices and ASAs may reflect supraspinal effects of the vibration-induced afferent activity, in particular its interactions with trans-thalamic loops.
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