Individuated finger movements of rhesus monkeys: a means of quantifying the independence of the digits

J Neurophysiol. 1991 Jun;65(6):1381-91. doi: 10.1152/jn.1991.65.6.1381.


1. Two rhesus monkeys were trained to perform flexion and extension movements of each digit of the right hand and of the wrist. Movements of all five digits and the wrist were monitored simultaneously. During each instructed movement, the instructed digit (or wrist) had the greatest excursion; other, noninstructed digits moved to varying degrees. 2. To assess the degree of independence of the different digits during these movements, I plotted, as a function of the instructed digit's position, the position of each noninstructed digit. The resulting trajectories typically were linear, with consistent slopes from trial to trial. 3. The slopes of these noninstructed digit versus instructed digit trajectories were used to calculate an individuation index for each instructed movement and a stationarity index for each digit. These indexes quantified two different aspects of independence. The individuation index reflects the degree to which other digits remained still during instructed movement of a given digit. The stationarity index reflects the degree to which a given digit remained still whenever it was a noninstructed digit. 4. In accordance with casual observation, thumb flexion and wrist flexion and extension consistently had both high individuation and stationarity and therefore can be said to be independent of the fingers. Although the same cannot be said of the other fingers, the present analysis provides a means of quantifying the degree of independence of these digits as well. 5. Factors are discussed that might contribute to the motion of noninstructed digits and to the trajectory linearity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Wrist / physiology