The purpose of this study was to determine whether magnified visual feedback during position-holding contractions exacerbates the age-associated differences in motor output variability due to changes in the neural activation of the agonist muscle in the upper and lower limb. Twelve young (18–35 years) and ten older adults (65–85 years) were instructed to accurately match a target position at 5° of index finger abduction and ankle dorsiflexion while lifting 10 % of their 1 repetition maximum (1RM) load. Position was maintained at three different visual angles (0.1°, 1°, and 4°) that varied across trials. Each trial lasted 25 s and visual feedback of position was removed from 15 to 25 s. Positional error was quantified as the root mean square error (RMSE) of the subject’s performance from the target. Positional variability was quantified as the standard deviation of the position data. The neural activation of the first dorsal interosseus and tibialis anterior was measured with surface electromyography (EMG). Older adults were less accurate compared with young adults and the RMSE decreased significantly with an increase in visual gain. As expected, and independent of limb, older adults exhibited significantly greater positional variability compared with young adults that was exacerbated with magnification of visual feedback (1° and 4°). This increase in variability at the highest magnification of visual feedback was predicted by a decrease in power from 12 to 30 Hz of the agonist EMG signal. These findings demonstrate that motor control in older adults is impaired by magnified visual feedback during positional tasks.
Aging; Visual feedback; Visual gain; EMG; Motor control
The purpose was to determine the relation between visual feedback gain and variability in force and whether visual gain-induced changes in force variability were associated with frequency-specific force oscillations and changes in the neural activation of the agonist muscle. Fourteen young adults (19–29 years) were instructed to accurately match the target force at 2 and 10% of their maximal voluntary contraction with abduction of the index finger. Force was maintained at specific visual feedback gain levels that varied across trials. Each trial lasted 20 s and the amount of visual feedback was varied by changing the visual gain from 0.5 to 1,474 pixels/N (13 levels; equals ~0.001–4.57°). Force variability was quantified as the standard deviation of the detrended force data. The neural activation of the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) was measured with surface electromyography. The mean force did not vary significantly with the amount of visual feedback. In contrast, force variability decreased from low gains compared to moderate gains (0.5–4 pixels/N: 0.09 ± 0.04 vs. 64–1,424 pixels/N: 0.06 ± 0.02 N). The decrease in variability was predicted by a decrease in the power of force oscillations from 0–1 Hz (~50%) and 3–7 Hz (~20%). The activity of the FDI muscle did not vary across the visual feedback gains. These findings demonstrate that in young adults force variability can be decreased with increased visual feedback gain (>64 pixels/N vs. 0.5–4 pixels/N) due to a decrease in the power of oscillations in the force from 0–1 and 3–7 Hz.
Visual feedback; Visual gain; Force variability; EMG; Force oscillations; First dorsal interosseus
The purpose of this study was to compare force variability and the neural activation of the agonist muscle during constant isometric contractions at different force levels when the amplitude of respiration and visual feedback were varied. Twenty young adults (20–32 years, 10 men and 10 women) were instructed to accurately match a target force at 15 and 50% of their maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) with abduction of the index finger while controlling their respiration at different amplitudes (85, 100 and 125% normal) in the presence and absence of visual feedback. Each trial lasted 22 s and visual feedback was removed from 8–12 to 16–20 s. Each subject performed 3 trials with each respiratory condition at each force level. Force variability was quantified as the standard deviation of the detrended force data. The neural activation of the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) was measured with bipolar surface electrodes placed distal to the innervation zone. Relative to normal respiration, force variability increased significantly only during high-amplitude respiration (~63%). The increase in force variability from normal- to high-amplitude respiration was strongly associated with amplified force oscillations from 0–3 Hz (R2 ranged from .68 – .84; p < .001). Furthermore, the increase in force variability was exacerbated in the presence of visual feedback at 50% MVC (vision vs. no-vision: .97 vs. .87 N) and was strongly associated with amplified force oscillations from 0–1 Hz (R2 = .82) and weakly associated with greater power from 12–30 Hz (R2 = .24) in the EMG of the agonist muscle. Our findings demonstrate that high-amplitude respiration and visual feedback of force interact and amplify force variability in young adults during moderate levels of effort.
Fluctuations in motor output are typically quantified by the standard deviation (SD) of displacement or acceleration. The aim of the study was to determine the influence of a linear variable-displacement transducer (LVDT) on the SDs and spectral content of displacement and acceleration during steady isometric and anisometric contractions performed with the first dorsal interosseus muscle. Thirteen young adults supported six loads when performing position-holding and position-tracking tasks when the LVDT either was or was not attached to the index finger. The LVDT reduced the magnitude of the SDs in displacement and acceleration and disrupted the load-dependent modulation of the spectral properties of these signals. When the LVDT was not connected to the finger, the displacement SD was greatest during concentric contractions, the acceleration SD was greatest during eccentric contractions, and there were load-dependent changes in the power density spectra. Although the LVDT may be used for assessing relative changes in displacement, its ability to provide absolute measures of fluctuations in motor output is limited. The results provide baseline measures of the fluctuations in motor output during steady contractions with a hand muscle and how the method used to detect displacement alters these measures.
First dorsal interosseus muscle; Steadiness; Displacement; Acceleration
The purpose of the study was to determine the contributions of endpoint variance and trajectory variability to the endpoint accuracy of goal-directed isometric contractions when the target force and contraction speed were varied. Thirteen young adults (25 ± 6 years) performed blocks of 15 trials at each of 2 contraction speeds and 4 target forces. Subjects were instructed to match the peak of a parabolic force trajectory to a target force by controlling the abduction force exerted by the index finger. The time to peak force was either 150 ms (fast) or 1 s (slow). The target forces were 20, 40, 60, and 80% of the maximal force that could be achieved in 150 ms during an MVC. The same absolute forces were required for both contraction speeds. Endpoint accuracy and variability in force and time along with intramuscular EMG activity of the agonist (first dorsal interosseus) and antagonist (second palmar interosseus) muscles were quantified for each block of trials. The principal dependent variables were endpoint error (shortest distance between the coordinates of the target and the peak force), endpoint variance (sum of the variance in peak force and time to peak force), trial-to-trial variability (SD of peak force and time to peak force), SD of the force trajectory (SD of the detrended force from force onset to peak force), normalized peak EMG amplitude, and the SD of normalized peak EMG amplitude. Stepwise multiple linear regression models were used to determine the EMG activity parameters that could explain the differences observed in endpoint error and endpoint variance. Endpoint error increased with target force for the fast contractions, but not for the slow contractions. In contrast, endpoint variance was greatest at the lowest force and was not associated with endpoint error at either contraction speed. Furthermore, force trajectory SD was not associated with endpoint error or endpoint variance for either contraction speed. Only the trial-to-trial variability of the timing predicted endpoint accuracy for fast and slow contractions. These findings indicate that endpoint error in tasks that require force and timing accuracy is minimized by controlling timing variability but not force variability, and that endpoint error is not related to the amplitude of the activation signal.
Hand; First dorsal interosseus; Force control; Neural noise
Although slow and insufficient muscle activation is a hallmark of hemiparesis post-stroke, movement speed is rarely emphasized during upper extremity rehabilitation. Moving faster may increase intensity of task-specific training, but positive and/or negative effects on paretic-limb movement quality are unknown.
To determine whether moving quickly instead of at a preferred speed either enhances or impairs paretic limb task performance after stroke.
Sixteen people with post-stroke hemiparesis and 11 healthy controls performed reach-grasp-lift movements at their preferred speed and as fast as possible, using palmar and 3-finger grip types. We measured durations of the reach and grasp phases, straightness of the reach path, thumb-index finger separation (aperture), efficiency of finger movement, and grip force.
As expected, reach and grasp phase durations decreased in the fast condition in both groups, showing that participants were able to move more quickly when asked. When moving fast, the hemiparetic group had reach durations equal to those of healthy controls moving at their preferred speed. Movement quality also improved. Reach paths were straighter and peak apertures were greater in both groups in the fast condition. The group with hemiparesis also showed improved efficiency of finger movement. Differences in peak grip force across speed conditions did not reach significance.
People with hemiparesis are able to move faster than they choose to, and when they do, movement quality is improved. Simple instructions to move faster could be a cost-free and effective means of increasing rehabilitation intensity after stroke.
hemiparesis; speed; kinematics; upper extremity; motor control; reach-to-grasp
In young healthy adults, syncopated finger movements (movements between consecutive beats) are characterized by a frequency-dependent change in phase at movement rates near 2 Hz. A similar frequency-dependent phase transition is observed during bimanual anti-phase (asymmetric) tasks in healthy young adults, but this transition frequency is significantly lowered in both patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and older adults. To date, no study has examined the transition frequency associated with unimanual syncopated movements in patients with PD or older adults. This study examined the effects of movement frequency on the performance of unconstrained syncopated index finger flexion movements in patients with PD, older adult subjects matched to patients with PD, and young adult subjects. Syncopated movements were paced by an acoustic tone that increased in frequency from 1 to 3 Hz in 0.25 Hz increments. Movement phase was quantified and the movement frequency where subjects transitioned from syncopation to synchronization was compared between groups. The principal finding was a marked impairment in the ability of patients with PD to perform syncopated movements when off medication. Medication did not significantly improve performance. In addition, the transition frequency for older adult subjects was lower than young adult subjects. These findings demonstrate that, similar to bimanual tasks, the coordination dynamics associated with unimanual syncopated finger movements transition from a stable to an unstable pattern at significantly lower frequencies in patients with PD and older adults compared to young adults.
syncopation; aging; Parkinson's disease; movement frequency
Old age is associated with reduced mobility of the hand. To investigate age related decline when reaching-to-lift an object we used sophisticated kinematic apparatus to record reaches carried out by healthy older and younger participants. Three objects of different widths were placed at three different distances, with objects having either a high or low friction surface (i.e. rough or slippery). Older participants showed quantitative differences to their younger counterparts – movements were slower and peak speed did not scale with object distance. There were also qualitative differences with older adults showing a greater propensity to stop the hand and adjust finger position before lifting objects. The older participants particularly struggled to lift wide slippery objects, apparently due to an inability to manipulate their grasp to provide the level of precision necessary to functionally enclose the object. These data shed light on the nature of age related changes in reaching-to-grasp movements and establish a powerful technique for exploring how different product designs will impact on prehensile behavior.
Aging impairs the control of many skilled movements including speech. The purpose of this paper was to investigate whether young and older adults adapt to lower lip perturbations during speech differently. Twenty men (10 young, 26 ± 3 years of age; 10 older, 60 ± 9 years of age) were requested to repeat the word (“papa”) 300 times. In 15% of the trials, the subjects experienced a mechanical perturbation on the lower lip. Displacement and neural activation (EMG) of the upper and lower lips were evaluated. Perturbations to the lower lip caused a greater increase in the maximum displacement of the lower lip for older adults compared with young adults (34.7 ± 19% vs. 13.4 ± 17%; P = 0.017). Furthermore, young adults exhibited significantly greater 30–100 Hz normalized EMG power for the lower lip compared to the upper lip (P < 0.005). In young adults, changes from normal to perturbed trials in the 30–50 Hz frequency band of the EMG were negatively correlated to the changes from normal to perturbed trials in the lower lip maximum displacement (R2 = 0.48; P = 0.025). It is concluded that young adults adapt better to lower lip perturbations compared with older adults and that the associated neural activation strategy of the involved muscle is different for the two age groups.
EMG; Wavelet analysis; Speech; Cortical drive
It is common for individuals with chronic disabilities to continue using the compensatory movement coordination due to entrenched habits, increased perception of task difficulty, or personality variables such as low self-efficacy or a fear of failure. Following our previous work using feedback distortion in a virtual rehabilitation environment to increase strength and range of motion, we address the use of visual feedback distortion environment to alter movement coordination patterns.
Fifty-one able-bodied subjects participated in the study. During the experiment, each subject learned to move their index finger and thumb in a particular target pattern while receiving visual feedback. Visual distortion was implemented as a magnification of the error between the thumb and/or index finger position and the desired position. The error reduction profile and the effect of distortion were analyzed by comparing the mean total absolute error and a normalized error that measured performance improvement for each subject as a proportion of the baseline error.
The results of the study showed that (1) different coordination pattern could be trained with visual feedback and have the new pattern transferred to trials without visual feedback, (2) distorting individual finger at a time allowed different error reduction profile from the controls, and (3) overall learning was not sped up by distorting individual fingers.
It is important that robotic rehabilitation incorporates multi-limb or finger coordination tasks that are important for activities of daily life in the near future. This study marks the first investigation on multi-finger coordination tasks under visual feedback manipulation.
In this study, we examined hemispheric differences in corticospinal excitability and in transcallosal inhibition in a selected group of young adults (n = 34) grouped into three handedness categories (RH: strongly right-handed, n = 17; LH: strongly left-handed, n = 10; MH: mixed-handed, n = 7) based on laterality quotients (LQ) derived from the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory. Performance measures were also used to derive a laterality index reflecting right-left asymmetries in manual dexterity (Dextli) and in finger tapping speed (Speedli). Corticospinal excitability was assessed in each hemisphere by means of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) using the first dorsal interosseus as the target muscle. TMS measures consisted of resting motor threshold (rMT), motor evoked potential (MEP) recruitment curve (RC) and the contralateral silent period (cSP) with the accompanying MEP facilitation. Hemispheric interactions were assessed by means of the ipsilateral silent period (iSP) to determine the onset latency and the duration of transcallosal inhibition (i.e., LTI and DTI). Analysis of hemispheric variations in measures of corticospinal excitability revealed no major asymmetries in relation to degrees of laterality or handedness, with the exception of a rightward increase in rMTs in the LH group. Similarly, no clear asymmetries were found when looking at hemispheric variations in measures of transcallosal inhibition. However, a large group effect was detected for LTI measures, which were found to be significantly shorter in the MH group than in either the LH or RH group. MH participants also tended to show longer DTI than the other participants. Further inspection of overall variations in LTI and DTI measures as a function of LQs revealed that both variables followed a non-linear relationship, which was best described by a 2nd order polynomial function. Overall, these findings provide converging evidence for a link between mixed-handedness and more efficient interhemispheric communication when compared to either right- or left-handedness.
The aim of this study was to further characterize surround inhibition (SI) in the primary motor cortex (M1) by comparing its magnitude and time course during a simple reaction time task (SRT) and a choice reaction time task (CRT).
In both the SRT and the CRT, subjects performed the same right index finger flexion in response to an acoustic signal. For CRT, the alternative choice was a similar movement using the left index finger, as distinguished by a different tone. In both tasks, single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied at rest, 75ms (T1) and 25ms before EMG onset (T2), and during the first peak of EMG (T3) in the right first dorsal interosseous muscle (FDI). Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from both FDIs, which act as synergists in the task, and the right surrounding, relaxed abductor pollicis brevis muscle (APB).
For right hand movement, SI started earlier and was more pronounced for CRT compared to SRT. For left hand movement in the CRT, SI was similar to that of right hand movement.
We conclude that SI occurs earlier and stronger with increasing task difficulty.
The timing as well as the bilateral effect of the inhibition suggests that motor areas involved in motor planning, proximate to the motor cortex, contribute to the genesis of surround inhibition.
reaction time task; motor evoked potentials; transcranial magnetic stimulation
The purpose of this study was to compare control of force and modulation of agonist muscle activity of young and older adults when the amount of visual feedback was varied at two different force levels. Ten young adults (25 years ± 4 years, 5 men and 5 women) and ten older adults (71 years ± 5 years, 4 men and 6 women) were instructed to accurately match a constant target force at 2 and 30% of their maximal isometric force with abduction of the index finger. Each trial lasted 35 s, and the amount of visual feedback was varied by changing the visual angle at 0.05, 0.5, and 1.5°. Each subject performed three trials for each visual angle condition. Force variability was quantified as the standard deviation and coefficient of variation (CV) of force. Modulation of the agonist muscle activity was quantified as the normalized power spectrum density of the EMG signal recorded from two pairs of bipolar electrodes placed on the first dorsal interosseus muscle. The frequency bands of interest were between 5 and 100 Hz. There were significant age-associated differences in force control with changes in the amount of visual feedback. The CV of force did not change with visual angle for young adults, whereas it increased for older adults. Although older adults exhibited similar CV of force to young adults at 0.05° (5.95 ± 0.67 vs. 5.47 ± 0.5), older adults exhibited greater CV of force than young adults at 0.5° (8.49 ± 1.34 vs. 5.05 ± 0.5) and 1.5° (8.23 ± 1.12 vs. 5.49 ± 0.6). In addition, there were age-associated differences in the modulation of the agonist muscle activity. Young adults increased normalized power in the EMG signal from 13 to 60 Hz with an increase in visual angle, whereas older adults did not. These findings suggest that greater amount of visual information may be detrimental to the control of a constant isometric contraction in older adults, and this impairment may be due to their inability to effectively modulate the motor neuron pool of the agonist muscle.
Visual gain; EMG; Aging; Force variability
During isometric compensation of modulated low-level forces corticomuscular coherence (CMC) has been shown to occur in high-beta or gamma-range. The influence of the frequency of force modulation on CMC has up to now remained unexplored. We addressed this question by investigating CMC, motor performance, and cortical spectral power during a visuomotor task in which subjects had to compensate a modulated force of 8% of the maximum voluntary contraction exerted on their right index finger. The effect of three frequencies of force modulation (0.6, 1.0 and 1.6 Hz) was tested. EEG, EMG from first dorsal interosseus, hand flexor and extensor muscles, and finger position were recorded in eight right-handed women.
Five subjects showed CMC in gamma- (28-45 Hz) and three in beta-range (15-30 Hz). Beta- and gamma-range CMC and cortical motor spectral power were not modulated by the various frequencies. However, a sharp bilateral CMC peak at 1.6 Hz was observed, but only in the five gamma-range CMC subjects. The performance error increased linearly with the frequency.
Our findings suggest that the frequency of force modulation has no effect on the beta- and gamma-range CMC during isometric compensation for modulated forces at 8% MVC. The beta- and gamma-range CMC may be related to interindividual differences and possibly to strategy differences.
Electromyographic responses to stretches of hand muscles (first dorsal interosseus) and leg muscles (triceps surae, tibialis anterior) were investigated in patients with cerebellar disorders of different locations. Stimuli consisted of short dorsiflexions of the index finger during background force and in tilting (toe up) of a movable platform on which the subject stood. The most important findings were increased long latency responses in upper and lower extremities. For hand muscles it was the late part of the long latency complex, which was increased. For leg muscles it was the long latency response in the anterior tibialis muscle, the antagonist of the stretched triceps surae. The medium latency response in the triceps surae was unaffected. Latencies of the early segmental reflexes and the long latency responses were normal except for cases with peripheral neuropathy (moderate increase in latency of all EMG responses) and diseases affecting both the peripheral nerves and the dorsal columns (for example Friedreich's ataxia). The latter leads to a pronounced delay of the short latency response and a massive delay of the long latency complex in the first dorsal interosseus and of the long latency response in the anterior tibialis muscle.
Although several stressors have been used to examine the influence of arousal on motor performance, including noxious electrical stimulation, cold pressor test, and mental math calculations, no study has compared the influence of different physical stressors on motor output. The purpose of the study was to compare the influence of two stressors (cold pressor test and electrical stimulation) on the steadiness of the abduction force exerted by the index finger. Sixteen subjects (22.8 ± 3.5 yrs, 8 women) performed steadiness trials before (anticipatory phase), during (stressor phase), and after (recovery phase) each stressor. The steadiness task involved isometric contractions with the first dorsal interosseus muscle, which is the muscle that produces most of the abduction force exerted by the index finger. Subjects were required to match the abduction force on a monitor to a target force set to 5% of the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force for 60 s. In contrast to previous studies that examined the influence of stressors on pinch grip steadiness, the two stressors did not decrease steadiness. Furthermore, the absence of a change in steadiness contrasted with the increases in cognitive (State-Trait Anxiety Index, Visual Analog Scale) and physiological (heart rate) arousal during the stressor phase and the subsequent decline during recovery. The null effect of the stressors on index finger steadiness may be due to the relative simplicity of the task compared with those examined previously.
This study investigated whether grip type and/or task goal influenced reaching and grasping performance in post-stroke hemiparesis. Sixteen adults with post-stroke hemiparesis and twelve healthy adults reached to and grasped a cylindrical object using one of two grip types (3-finger or palmar) to achieve one of two task goals (hold or lift). Performance of the stroke group was characteristic of hemiparetic limb movement during reach-to-grasp, with more curved handpaths and slower velocities compared to the control group. These effects were present regardless of grip type or task goal. Other measures of reaching (reach time and reach velocity at object contact) and grasping (peak thumb-index finger aperture during the reach and peak grip force during the grasp) were differentially affected by grip type, task goal, or both, despite the presence of hemiparesis, providing new evidence that changes in motor patterns after stroke may occur to compensate for stroke-related motor impairment.
functional performance; motor control; rehabilitation
The goal of the present study was to shed light on the respective contributions of three important action monitoring brain regions (i.e. cingulate cortex, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex) during the conscious detection of response errors. To this end, fourteen healthy adults performed a speeded Go/Nogo task comprising Nogo trials of varying levels of difficulty, designed to elicit aware and unaware errors. Error awareness was indicated by participants with a second key press after the target key press. Meanwhile, electromyogram (EMG) from the response hand was recorded in addition to high-density scalp electroencephalogram (EEG). In the EMG-locked grand averages, aware errors clearly elicited an error-related negativity (ERN) reflecting error detection, and a later error positivity (Pe) reflecting conscious error awareness. However, no Pe was recorded after unaware errors or hits. These results are in line with previous studies suggesting that error awareness is associated with generation of the Pe. Source localisation results confirmed that the posterior cingulate motor area was the main generator of the ERN. However, inverse solution results also point to the involvement of the left posterior insula during the time interval of the Pe, and hence error awareness. Moreover, consecutive to this insular activity, the right orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) was activated in response to aware and unaware errors but not in response to hits, consistent with the implication of this area in the evaluation of the value of an error. These results reveal a precise sequence of activations in these three non-overlapping brain regions following error commission, enabling a progressive differentiation between aware and unaware errors as a function of time elapsed, thanks to the involvement first of interoceptive or proprioceptive processes (left insula), later leading to the detection of a breach in the prepotent response mode (right OFC).
Proper movement timing is essential to the successful execution of many motor tasks and may be adversely affected by muscle fatigue. This study quantified how muscle fatigue affected task performance during a repetitive upper extremity task. 14 healthy young adults pushed a low load back and forth along a low-friction horizontal track in time with a metronome until volitional exhaustion. Kinematic, force, and electromyography (EMG) data were measured continuously throughout the task. The first and last 3.5 minutes were analyzed to represent ‘early’ and ‘late’ fatigue. Means and standard deviations of movement distance, speed, and timing errors were computed. We also decomposed variations in movement distance and speed into deviations that directly affected achieving the task goal and those that did not, by identifying the goal equivalent manifold (GEM) of all valid solutions to this task. Detrended fluctuation analysis was used to quantify the temporal persistence in each time series. Principle components analysis provided a direct measure of alignment with the GEM. Median power frequencies of the EMG significantly decreased in 6 of the 9 muscles tested indicating that subjects did fatigue. However, there were no differences in the means or variability of movement distance, speed, or timing errors. Thus, subjects maintained overall performance despite fatigue. Subjects applied slightly higher peak handle forces when they were fatigued (p = 0.032). Muscle fatigue caused significant reductions in the temporal persistence of movement speed (p = 0.037) and timing errors (p = 0.046), indicating that subjects corrected errors more quickly when fatigued. Mean deviations and variability perpendicular to the GEM were much smaller than variability along the GEM (p < 0.001). Deviations perpendicular to the GEM were also corrected much more rapidly than those along the GEM (p < 0.001). Subjects aligned themselves very closely (< ±7°), but not exactly (p < 0.001), with the GEM. These measures were not significantly affected by muscle fatigue. Overall, these results indicated that subjects altered their biomechanical movement patterns in response to muscle fatigue, but did so in a way that specifically preserved the goal relevant features of task performance.
Multi-joint movement; Redundancy; Muscle fatigue; Physical endurance; Motor control; Time factors
This study aimed to continue our characterization of finger strength and multi-finger interactions across the lifespan to include those in their sixties and older. Building on our previous study of children, we examined young and elderly adults during isometric finger flexion and extension tasks. Sixteen young and sixteen elderly, gender-matched subjects produced maximum force using either a single finger or all four fingers in flexion and extension. The maximum voluntary finger force (MVF), the percentage contributions of individual finger forces to the sum of individual finger forces during four-finger MVF task (force sharing), and the non-task finger forces during a task finger MVF task (force enslaving), were computed as dependent variables. Force enslaving during finger extension was greater than during flexion in both young and elderly groups. The flexion-extension difference was greater in the elderly than the young adult group. The greater independency in flexion may result from more frequent use of finger flexion in everyday manipulation tasks. The non-task fingers closer to a task finger produced greater enslaving force than non-task fingers farther from the task finger. The force sharing pattern was not different between age groups. Our findings suggest that finger strength decreases over the aging process, finger independency for flexion increases throughout development, and force sharing pattern remains constant across the lifespan.
finger; force; extension; aging; development; enslaving; sharing
We used the framework of the equilibrium-point hypothesis (in its updated form based on the notion of referent configuration) to investigate the multi-digit synergies at two levels of a hypothetical hierarchy involved in prehensile actions. Synergies were analyzed at the thumb–virtual finger (VF) level (VF is an imaginary digit with the mechanical action equivalent to that of the four actual fingers) and at the individual finger level. The subjects performed very quick vertical movements of a handle into a target. A load could be attached off-center to provide a pronation or supination torque. In a few trials, the handle was unexpectedly fixed to the table and the digits slipped off the sensors. In such trials, the hand stopped at a higher vertical position and rotated into pronation or supination depending on the expected torque. The aperture showed non-monotonic changes with a large, fast decrease and further increase, ending up with a smaller distance between the thumb and the fingers as compared to unperturbed trials. Multi-digit synergies were quantified using indices of co-variation between digit forces and moments of force across unperturbed trials. Prior to the lifting action, high synergy indices were observed at the individual finger level while modest indices were observed at the thumb–VF level. During the lifting action, the synergies at the individual finger level disappeared while the synergy indices became higher at the thumb–VF level. The results support the basic premise that, within a given task, setting a referent configuration may be described with a few referent values of variables that influence the equilibrium state, to which the system is attracted. Moreover, the referent configuration hypothesis can help interpret the data related to the trade-off between synergies at different hierarchical levels.
Prehension; Synergy; Referent configuration; Grip
Motor unit number index (MUNIX) is a recently developed novel neurophysiological technique providing an index proportional to the number of motor units in a muscle. The MUNIX is derived from maximum M wave and voluntary surface electromyogram (EMG) recordings. The objective of this study was to address a practical question for computing MUNIX in the first dorsal interosseous (FDI), a multifunctional muscle that generates torque about the second metacarpophalangeal joint, i.e. how will different lines of muscle activation influence its MUNIX estimates? To address this question, the MUNIX technique was applied in the FDI muscle of 15 neurologically intact subjects, using surface EMG signals from index finger abduction and flexion, respectively, while the maximum M wave remained the same. Across all subjects, the average MUNIX value of the FDI muscle was 228 ± 45 for index finger abduction, slightly smaller than the MUNIX estimate of 251 ± 56 for index finger flexion. Different FDI muscle activation patterns resulted in an approximately 10% difference in MUNIX estimates. The findings from this study suggest that appropriate definition of voluntary activation of the FDI muscle should be kept to ensure consistency in measurements and avoid source of error. The current study is limited by only assessing neurologically intact muscles. It is important to perform a similar analysis for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), given that ALS is the primary intention of the MUNIX method as a potential follow-up measurement for motor unit loss.
The passive observation of hand actions is associated with increased motor cortex excitability, presumably reflecting activity within the human mirror neuron system (MNS). Recent data show that in-group ethnic membership increases motor cortex excitability during observation of culturally relevant hand gestures, suggesting that physical similarity with an observed body part may modulate MNS responses. Here, we ask whether the MNS is preferentially activated by passive observation of hand actions that are similar or dissimilar to self in terms of sex and skin color. Transcranial magnetic stimulation-induced motor evoked potentials were recorded from the first dorsal interosseus muscle while participants viewed videos depicting index finger movements made by female or male participants with black or white skin color. Forty-eight participants equally distributed in terms of sex and skin color participated in the study. Results show an interaction between self-attributes and physical attributes of the observed hand in the right motor cortex of female participants, where corticospinal excitability is increased during observation of hand actions in a different skin color than that of the observer. Our data show that specific physical properties of an observed action modulate motor cortex excitability and we hypothesize that in-group/out-group membership and self-related processes underlie these effects.
Older adults are more likely than young to fall upon a loss of balance, yet the factors responsible for this difference are not well understood. This study investigated whether age-related differences in movement stability, limb support, and reactive stepping contribute to the greater likelihood of falling among older adults. Sixty young and 41 older, safety-harnessed, healthy adults were exposed to a novel and unexpected forward slip during a sit-to-stand task. More older than young adults fell (76% vs. 30%). Falls in both age groups were related to lesser stability and lower hip height at first step touchdown, with 97.1% of slip outcomes correctly classified based on these variables. Decreases in hip height at touchdown had over 20 times greater effect on the odds of falling than equivalent decreases in stability. Three age-differences placed older adults at greater risk of falling: older adults had lower and more slowly rising hips at slip onset, they were less likely to respond to slipping with forceful limb extension, and they placed their stepping foot less posterior to their center of mass. The first two differences, each associated with deficient limb support, reduced hip ascent and increased hip descent. The third difference resulted in lesser stability at step touchdown. These results suggest that deficient limb support in normal movement patterns and in the reactive response to a perturbation is a major contributor to the high incidence of falls in older adults. Improving proactive and reactive limb support should be a focus of fall prevention efforts.
older adults; slips; stability; limb collapse
Two types of finger interaction are characterized by positive co-variation (enslaving) or negative co-variation (error compensation) of finger forces. Enslaving reflects mechanical and neural connections among fingers, while error compensation results from synergic control of fingers to stabilize their net output. Involuntary and voluntary force changes by a finger were used to explore these patterns. We hypothesized that synergic mechanisms will dominate during involuntary force changes, while enslaving will dominate during voluntary finger force changes. Subjects pressed with all four fingers to match a target force that was 10% of their maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). One of the fingers was unexpectedly raised 5.0 mm at a speed of 30.0 mm/s. During finger raising the subject was instructed “not to intervene voluntarily”. After the finger was passively lifted and a new steady-state achieved, subjects pressed down with the lifted finger, producing a pulse of force voluntarily. The data were analyzed in terms of finger forces and finger modes (hypothetical commands to fingers reflecting their intended involvement). The target finger showed an increase in force during both phases. In the involuntary phase, the target finger force changes ranged between 10.71 ± 1.89% MVC (I-finger) and 16.60 ± 2.26% MVC (L-finger). Generally, non-target fingers displayed a force decrease with a maximum amplitude of −1.49 ± 0.43% MVC (L-finger). Thus, during the involuntary phase, error compensation was observed – non-lifted fingers showed a decrease in force (as well as in mode magnitude). During the voluntary phase, enslaving was observed – non-target fingers showed an increase in force and only minor changes in mode magnitude. The average change in force of non-target fingers ranged from 21.83 ± 4.47% MVC for R-finger (M-finger task) to 0.71 ± 1.10 % MVC for L-finger (I-finger task). The average change in mode of non-target fingers was between −7.34 ± 19.27% MVC for R-finger (L-finger task) and 7.10 ± 1.38% MVC for M-finger (I-finger task). We discuss a range of factors affecting force changes, from purely mechanical effects of finger passive lifting to neural synergic adjustments of commands to individual fingers. The data fit a recently suggested scheme that merges the equilibrium-point hypothesis (control with referent configurations) with the idea of hierarchical synergic control of multi-element systems.
Synergy; hand; force; enslaving; equilibrium-point hypothesis