Extrinsic digit muscles contribute to both fingertip forces and wrist movements (FDP and FPL-flexion, EDC-extension). Hence, it is expected that finger forces depend on the wrist movement and position. We investigated the relation between grip force and wrist kinematics to examine whether and how the force (1) scales with wrist flexion-extension (FE) angle and (2) can be predicted from accelerations induced during FE movement. In one experiment, subjects naturally held an instrumented handle using a prismatic grasp and performed very slow FE movements. In another experiment, the same movement was performed cyclically at three prescribed frequencies. In quasistatic conditions, the grip force remained constant over the majority of the wrist range of motion. During the cyclic movements, the grip force changed. The changes were described with a linear regression model that represents the thumb and virtual finger (VF = four fingers combined) normal forces as the sum of the effects of the object's tangential and radial accelerations and an object-weight-dependent constant term. The model explained 99 % of the variability in the data. The independence of the grip force from wrist position agrees with the theory that the thumb and VF forces are controlled with two neural variables that encode referent coordinates for each digit while accounting for changes in the position dependence of muscle forces, rather than a single neural variable like referent aperture. The results of the cyclical movement study extend the principle of superposition (some complex actions can be decomposed into independently controlled elemental actions) for a motor task involving simultaneous grip-force exertion and wrist motion with significant length changes of the grip-force-producing muscles.
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