Anticipatory modulation of precision grip force with variations in limb velocity of a curvilinear movement

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The authors examined the relationship between peak velocity of a discrete horizontal elbow flexion movement in which the hand path was curvilinear and premovement modulation of precision grip force. The velocity of the movements of 7 participants was varied from maximal velocity to a velocity that required several seconds to reach a target. An object instrumented with force transducers for the forefinger and thumb measured precision grip force. There was a positively accelerating quadratic relationship between grip force change before movement and peak velocity of the ensuing limb movement. On some low-velocity trials, premovement grip force modulation reflected a net decrease. In contrast, high-velocity trials were preceded by net increases in grip force. Using cluster analysis, the authors classified grip forces in low-velocity movements as an empirically distinct set of entities from grip forces in high-velocity movements. The cluster of high-value grip forces suggested an anticipatory strategy that allowed participants a large safety margin in grip force to avoid object slip on movement initiation. The cluster of low-value grip forces at movement initiation suggested a second anticipatory strategy in which participants changed grip force very little, perhaps to increase the ability of proprioceptors in the hand to sense force changes. Those findings suggest that modulation of grip force before initiation of movements in which the hand path is curvilinear may be governed by two distinct velocity-dependent anticipatory strategies.

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