The goal of this study was to investigate the conjoint changes of digit forces/moments in 3 dimensions during static prehension under external torques acting on the object in one plane. The experimental paradigm was similar to holding a book vertically in the air where the center of mass of the book is located farther from the hand than the points of digit contacts. Three force and 3 moment components from each digit were recorded during static prehension of a customized handle. Subjects produced forces and moments in all 3 directions, although the external torques were exerted on the handheld object about only the Z-axis. The 3-dimensional response to a 2-dimensional task was explained by the cause-effect chain effects prompted by the noncollinearity of the normal forces of the thumb and the 4 fingers (represented by the "virtual finger"). Because the forces are not collinear (not along the same line), they generate moments of force about X- and Y-axes that are negated by the finger forces along the Y- and X-directions. The magnitudes of forces produced by lateral fingers (index and little) with longer moment arms were larger compared with the central fingers (middle and ring). At the virtual finger (an imaginary digit whose mechanical action is equivalent to the summed action of the 4 fingers) level, the relative contribution of different fractions of the resistive moment produced by subjects did not depend on the torque magnitude. We conclude that the CNS 1) solves a planar prehension task by producing forces and moments in all 3 directions, 2) uses mechanical advantage of fingers, and 3) shares the total torque among finger forces and moments in a particular way disregarding the torque magnitude.
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