Hierarchies of synergies: An example of two-hand, multi-finger tasks

Stacey L. Gorniak, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

We explored the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to assemble synergies stabilizing the output of sets of effectors at two levels of a control hierarchy. Specifically, we asked a question: can the CNS organize both two-hand and within-a-hand force stabilizing synergies in a simple two-hand force production task that involves two fingers per hand? Intuitively, one could expect a positive answer; that is, forces produced by each hand are expected to co-vary negatively across trials to bring down the total force variability, while forces produced by each finger within-a-hand are expected to co-vary negatively to reduce the variability of that hand's contribution to the total force. The subjects were instructed to follow a trapezoidal time profile with the signal corresponding to the force produced by a set of instructed fingers in one-hand tasks with two-finger force production and in two-hand tasks with involvement of both symmetrical and asymmetrical finger pairs in the two hands. Finger force co-variation across trials was quantified and used as an index of stabilization of the force produced by all the instructed fingers, and of the force produced by finger pairs within-a-hand. No major differences were seen between the dominant and the non-dominant hand and between the two-hand tasks with symmetrical and asymmetrical finger involvement. Stronger synergies were seen in the index-middle finger pair as compared to the ring-little finger pair. The main result of the study is the significantly weaker or even lacking two-finger force stabilizing synergies within-a-hand during two-hand tasks while such synergies were present in one-hand tasks. This observation points at a potential limitation in the ability of the CNS to organize synergies at two levels of a control hierarchy simultaneously. It also allows suggesting a hypothesis on two types of synergies in the human motor repertoire, well-practiced synergies that form a library serving as the foundation for all novel actions, and freshly assembled synergies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-180
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume179
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)

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