Position sense at the proximal interphalangeal joint of the human index finger

J Physiol. 1988 May;399:49-61. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1988.sp017067.


1. The ability of eleven normal subjects to match the position of the proximal interphalangeal joints was tested. The right index finger (target finger) was moved to a given position and the subject was required to match this with the left index finger (matching finger). 2. Digital nerve block of the matching finger resulted in substantial impairment in matching performance in seven out of eight subjects. 3. Anaesthesia of the target finger in two subjects also produced obvious position matching deficit, in a pattern consistent with subjective sensation of target finger position. 4. The effects of digital nerve block were specific, as neither injection of saline into the matching finger, nor anaesthesia of adjacent fingers, impaired performance. 5. In one subject, injection of local anaesthetic into the synovial cavity of the matching finger also resulted in impairment of matching performance, indicating that articular receptors contribute to position sense at this joint. 6. Passive displacement of the matching finger did not produce significantly greater errors than those occurring with active finger positioning either under control conditions or during digital nerve block of the matching finger. 7. Although digital nerve block produced substantial impairment of matching performance, there was not complete loss of proprioceptive sensation, suggesting that muscle receptors also contribute. This was confirmed in experiments where isotonic loading of the matching finger while it was anaesthetized resulted in significant alteration in matching performance compared to anaesthesia alone. 8. It is concluded that no one source of afferent input can be excluded from contributing to proprioception at the index finger. It is likely that under different operating conditions several afferent sources are required to provide optimal proprioceptive resolution.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Finger Joint / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Nerve Block
  • Proprioception