Our understanding of reach-to-grasp movements has evolved from the original formulation of the movement as two semi-independent visuomotor channels to one of interdependence. Despite a number of important contributions involving perturbations of the reach or the grasp, some of the features of the movement, such as the presence or absence of coordination between the digits during the pincer grasp and the extent of spatio-temporal interdependence between the transport and the grasp, are still unclear. In this study, we physically perturbed the index finger into extension during grasping closure on a minority of trials to test whether modifying the movement of one digit would affect the movement of the opposite digit, suggestive of an overarching coordinative process. Furthermore, we tested whether disruption of the grasp results in the modification of kinematic parameters of the transport. Our results showed that a continuous perturbation to the index finger affected wrist velocity but not lateral displacement. Moreover, we found that the typical flexion of the thumb observed in nonperturbed trials was delayed until the index finger counteracted the extension force. These results suggest that physically perturbing the grasp modifies the kinematics of the transport component, indicating a two-way interdependence of the reach and the grasp. Furthermore, a perturbation to one digit affects the kinematics of the other, supporting a model of grasping in which the digits are coordinated by a higher-level process rather than being independently controlled. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A current debate concerning the neural control of prehension centers on the question of whether the digits in a pincer grasp are controlled individually or together. Employing a novel approach that perturbs mechanically the grasp component during a natural reach-to-grasp movement, this work is the first to test a key hypothesis: whether perturbing one of the digits during the movement affects the other. Our results support the idea that the digits are not independently controlled.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Mechanical perturbation
- Online coordination
- Reach to grasp