We investigated multidigit synergies stabilizing components of the resultant force vector during joint performance of a static prehension task by two persons as compared to similar tasks performed by a single person using both hands. Subjects transferred the instrumented handle from the right hand to the left hand (one-person condition) or passed that handle to another person (two-person condition) while keeping the handle’s position and orientation stationary. Only three digits were involved per hand, the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger; the forces and moments produced by the digits were measured by six-component sensors. We estimated the performance-stabilizing synergies within the uncontrolled manifold framework by quantifying the intertrial variance structure of digit forces and moments. The analysis was performed at three levels: between hands, between virtual finger and virtual thumb (imagined digits producing the same mechanical variables as the corresponding actual digits combined) produced by the two hands (in both interpersonal and intrapersonal conditions), and between the thumb and virtual finger for one hand only. Additionally, we performed correlation and phase synchronization analyses of resultant tangential forces and internal normal forces. Overall, the one-person conditions were characterized by higher amount of intertrial variance that did not affect resultant normal force components, higher internal components of normal forces, and stronger synchronization of the normal forces generated by the hands. Our observations suggest that in two-person tasks, when participants try to achieve a common mechanical outcome, the performance-stabilizing synergies depend on non-visual information exchange, possibly via the haptic and proprioceptive systems. Therefore, synergies quantified in tasks using visual feedback only may not be generalizable to more natural tasks.
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