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J Neurosci. 2000 Nov 15;20(22):8542-50.

Quantifying the independence of human finger movements: comparisons of digits, hands, and movement frequencies.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Center for Visual Science, and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program at St. Mary's Hospital, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, NY, USA.


To determine whether other digits move when normal humans attempt to move just one digit, we asked 10 right-handed subjects to move one finger at a time while we recorded the motion of all five digits simultaneously with both a video motion analysis system and an instrumented glove. We quantified the independence of the digits to compare (1) the different digits, (2) the right versus the left hand, and (3) movements at a self-paced frequency versus externally paced movements at 3 Hz. We also quantified the degree to which motion occurred at the proximal, middle, or distal joint of each digit. Even when asked to move just one finger, normal human subjects produced motion in other digits. Movements of the thumb, index finger, and little finger typically were more highly individuated than were movements of the middle or ring fingers. Fingers of the dominant hand were not more independent than were those of the nondominant hand. Self-paced movements made at approximately 2 Hz were more highly individuated than were externally paced movements at 3 Hz. Angular motion tended to be greatest at the middle joint of each digit, with increased angular motion at the proximal and distal joints during 3 Hz movements. Simultaneous motion of noninstructed digits may result in part from passive mechanical connections between the digits, in part from the organization of multitendoned finger muscles, and in part from distributed neural control of the hand.

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