To evaluate normal and impaired control of anticipatory grip force (GF) modulation, we compared GF production during horizontal arm movements in healthy and post-stroke subjects, and, based on a physiologically feasible dynamic model, determined referent control variables underlying the GF-arm motion coordination in each group. 63% of 13 healthy and 48% of 13 stroke subjects produced low sustained initial force (< 10 N) and increased GF prior to arm movement. Movement-related GF increases were higher during fast compared to self-paced arm extension movements only in the healthy group. Differences in the patterns of anticipatory GF increases before the arm movement onset between groups occurred during fast extension arm movement only. In the stroke group, longer delays between the onset of GF change and elbow motion were related to clinical upper limb deficits. Simulations showed that GFs could emerge from the difference between the actual and the referent hand aperture (Ra) specified by the CNS. Similarly, arm movement could result from changes in the referent elbow position (Re) and could be affected by the co-activation (C) command. A subgroup of stroke subjects, who increased GF before arm movement, could specify different patterns of the referent variables while reproducing the healthy typical pattern of GF-arm coordination. Stroke subjects, who increased GF after arm movement onset, also used different referent strategies than controls. Thus, altered anticipatory GF behavior in stroke subjects may be explained by deficits in referent control.
Keywords: Anticipatory grip force; Referent control; Stroke.