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Exp Brain Res. 1999 May;126(2):205-14.

Grip forces exerted against stationary held objects during gravity changes.

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Department of Neuropsychology, Krankenhaus München-Bogenhausen, München, Germany.


In the present study, grip forces exerted against a stationary held object were recorded during parabolic flights. Such flight maneuvers induce changes of gravity with two periods of hypergravity, associated with a doubling of normal terrestrial gravity, and a 20 s period of microgravity. Accordingly, the object's weight changed from being twice as heavy as normally experienced and weightless. Grip-force recordings demonstrated that force control was seriously disturbed only during the first experience of hyper- and microgravity, with the grip forces being exceedingly high and yielding irregular fluctuations. Thereafter, however, grip force traces were smooth, the force level was scaled to the object's weight under normal and high-G conditions, and the grip force changed in parallel with the weight during the transitions between hyper- and microgravity. In addition, during weightlessness, when virtually no force was necessary to stabilize the object, a low force was established, which obviously represented a reasonable safety margin for preventing possible perturbations. Thus, all relevant aspects of grip-force control observed under normal gravity conditions were preserved during gravity changes induced by parabolic flights. Hence, grip-force control mechanisms were able to cope with hyper- and microgravity, either by incorporating relevant receptor signals, such as those originating from cutaneous mechanoreceptors, or by adequately including perceived gravity signals into control programs. However, the adaptation to the uncommon gravity conditions was not complete following the first experience; finer tuning of the control system to both hyper- and microgravity continued over the measurement interval, presumably with a longer observation period being necessary before a stable performance can be reached.

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