Control of grasp stability during pronation and supination movements

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Sep;128(1-2):20-30. doi: 10.1007/s002210050813.


We analyzed the control of grasp stability during a major manipulative function of the human hand: rotation of a grasped object by pronation and supination movement. We investigated the regulation of grip forces used to stabilize an object held by a precision grip between the thumb and index finger when subjects rotated it around a horizontal axis. Because the center of mass was located distal to the grip axis joining the fingertips, destabilizing torque tangential to the grasp surfaces developed when the grip axis rotated relative to the field of gravity. The torque load was maximal when the grip axis was horizontal and minimal when it was vertical. An instrumented test object, with a mass distribution that resulted in substantial changes in torque load during the rotation task, measured forces and torques applied by the digits. The mass distribution of the object was unpredictably changed between trials. The grip force required to stabilize the object increased directly with increasing torque load. Importantly, the grip force used by the subjects also changed in proportion to the torque load such that subjects always employed adequate safety margins against rotational slips, i.e., some 20-40% of the grip force. Rather than driven by sensory feedback pertaining to the torque load, the changes in grip force were generated as an integral part of the motor commands that accounted for the rotation movement. Subjects changed the grip force in parallel with, or even slightly ahead of, the rotation movement, whereas grip force responses elicited by externally imposed torque load changes were markedly delayed. Moreover, blocking sensory information from the digits did not appreciably change the coordination between movement and grip force. We thus conclude that the grip force was controlled by feedforward rather than by feedback mechanisms. These feedforward mechanisms would thus predict the consequences of the rotation movement in terms of changes in fingertip loads when the orientation of the grip axis changed in the field of gravity. Changes in the object's center of mass between trials resulted in a parametric scaling of the motor commands prior to their execution. This finding suggests that the sensorimotor memories used in manipulation to adapt the motor output for the physical properties of environmental objects also encompass information related to an object's center of mass. This information was obtained by somatosensory cues when subjects initially grasped the object with the grip axis vertical, i. e., during minimum tangential torque load.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Pronation / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Rotation
  • Supination / physiology*
  • Torque