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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Mar;105(3):1295-305. doi: 10.1152/jn.00757.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Controlling instabilities in manipulation requires specific cortical-striatal-cerebellar networks.

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Department of Radiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, 950 W. Walnut St., R2 E124, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


Dexterous manipulation requires both strength, the ability to produce fingertip forces of a specific magnitude, and dexterity, the ability to dynamically regulate the magnitude and direction of fingertip force vectors and finger motions. Although cortical activity in fronto-parietal networks has been established for stable grip and pinch forces, the cortical regulation in the dexterous control of unstable objects remains unknown. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to interrogate cortical networks engaged in the control of four objects with increasing instabilities but requiring constant strength. In addition to expected activity in fronto-parietal networks we find that dexterous manipulation of increasingly unstable objects is associated with a linear increase in the amplitude of the BOLD signal in the basal ganglia (P = 0.007 and P = 0.023 for 2 compression tasks). A computational regression (connectivity) model identified independent subsets of cortical networks whose connection strengths were mutable and associated with object instability (P < 0.001). Our results suggest that in the presence of object instability, the basal ganglia may modulate the activity of premotor areas and subsequent motor output. This work, therefore, provides new evidence for the selectable cortical representation and execution of dynamic multifinger manipulation for grasp stability.

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