We explored the role of the basal ganglia in two components of multi-finger synergies by testing a group of patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease and a group of healthy controls. Synergies were defined as co-varied adjustments of commands to individual fingers that reduced variance of the total force and moment of force. The framework of the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis was used to quantify such co-variation patterns, while average performance across repetitive trials (sharing patterns) was analyzed using the analytical inverse optimization (ANIO) approach. The subjects performed four-finger pressing tasks that involved the accurate production of combinations of the total force and total moment of force and also repetitive trials at two selected combinations of the total force and moment. The ANIO approach revealed significantly larger deviations of the experimental data planes from an optimal plane for the patients compared to the control subjects. The synergy indices computed for total force stabilization were significantly higher in the control subjects compared to the patients; this was not true for synergy indices computed for moment of force stabilization. The differences in the synergy indices were due to the larger amount of variance that affected total force in the patients, while the amount of variance that did not affect total force was comparable between the groups. We conclude that the basal ganglia play an important role in both components of synergies reflecting optimization of the sharing patterns and stability of performance with respect to functionally important variables.
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