We combined the theory of neural control of movement with referent coordinates and the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis to explore synergies stabilizing the hand action in accurate four-finger pressing tasks. In particular, we tested a hypothesis on two classes of synergies, those among the four fingers and those within a pair of control variables, stabilizing hand action under visual feedback and disappearing without visual feedback. Subjects performed four-finger total force and moment production tasks under visual feedback; the feedback was later partially or completely removed. The “inverse piano” device was used to lift and lower the fingers smoothly at the beginning and at the end of each trial. These data were used to compute pairs of hypothetical control variables. Intertrial analysis of variance within the finger force space was used to quantify multifinger synergies stabilizing both force and moment. A data permutation method was used to quantify synergies among control variables. Under visual feedback, synergies in the spaces of finger forces and hypothetical control variables were found to stabilize total force. Without visual feedback, the subjects showed a force drift to lower magnitudes and a moment drift toward pronation. This was accompanied by disappearance of the four-finger synergies and strong attenuation of the control variable synergies. The indexes of the two types of synergies correlated with each other. The findings are interpreted within the scheme with multiple levels of abundant variables. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We extended the idea of hierarchical control with referent spatial coordinates for the effectors and explored two types of synergies stabilizing multifinger force production tasks. We observed synergies among finger forces and synergies between hypothetical control variables that stabilized performance under visual feedback but failed to stabilize it after visual feedback had been removed. Indexes of two types of synergies correlated with each other. The data suggest the existence of multiple mechanisms stabilizing motor actions.
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