We studied the coordination of forces and moments exerted by individual digits in static tasks that required balancing an external load and torque. Subjects (n=10) stabilized a handle with an attachment that allowed for change of external torque. Thumb position and handle width systematically varied among the trials. Each subject performed 63 tasks (7 torque values × 3 thumb locations × 3 widths). Forces and moments exerted by the digit tips on the object were recorded. Although direction and magnitude of finger forces varied among subjects, each subject used a similar multidigit synergy: a single eigenvalue accounted for 95.2-98.5% of the total variance. When task parameters were varied, regular conjoint digital force changes (prehension synergies) were observed. Synergies represent preferential solutions used by the subjects to satisfy mechanical requirements of the tasks. In particular, chain effects in force adjustments to changes in the handle geometry were documented. An increased handle width induced the following effects: (a) tangential forces remained unchanged, (b) the same tangential forces produced a larger moment Tt, (c) the increased Tt was compensated by a smaller moment of the normal forces Tn, and (d) normal finger forces were rearranged to generate a smaller moment. Torque control is a core component of prehension synergies. Observed prehension synergies are only mechanically necessitated in part. The data support a theory of hierarchical organization of prehension synergies.
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