Kinematic synergies of hand grasps: a comprehensive study on a large publicly available dataset

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2019 May 28;16(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s12984-019-0536-6.


Background: Hand grasp patterns require complex coordination. The reduction of the kinematic dimensionality is a key process to study the patterns underlying hand usage and grasping. It allows to define metrics for motor assessment and rehabilitation, to develop assistive devices and prosthesis control methods. Several studies were presented in this field but most of them targeted a limited number of subjects, they focused on postures rather than entire grasping movements and they did not perform separate analysis for the tasks and subjects, which can limit the impact on rehabilitation and assistive applications. This paper provides a comprehensive mapping of synergies from hand grasps targeting activities of daily living. It clarifies several current limits of the field and fosters the development of applications in rehabilitation and assistive robotics.

Methods: In this work, hand kinematic data of 77 subjects, performing up to 20 hand grasps, were acquired with a data glove (a 22-sensor CyberGlove II data glove) and analyzed. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to extract and group kinematic synergies that summarize the coordination patterns available for hand grasps.

Results: Twelve synergies were found to account for > 80% of the overall variation. The first three synergies accounted for more than 50% of the total amount of variance and consisted of: the flexion and adduction of the Metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP) of fingers 3 to 5 (synergy #1), palmar arching and flexion of the wrist (synergy #2) and opposition of the thumb (synergy #3). Further synergies refine movements and have higher variability among subjects.

Conclusion: Kinematic synergies are extracted from a large number of subjects (77) and grasps related to activities of daily living (20). The number of motor modules required to perform the motor tasks is higher than what previously described. Twelve synergies are responsible for most of the variation in hand grasping. The first three are used as primary synergies, while the remaining ones target finer movements (e.g. independence of thumb and index finger). The results generalize the description of hand kinematics, better clarifying several limits of the field and fostering the development of applications in rehabilitation and assistive robotics.

Keywords: Cluster analysis; Cyberglove; Hand synergies; Kinematics; Myoelectric prostheses; Principal component analysis; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Principal Component Analysis