Exploration of force coordination has been one of the most often used approaches in studies of hand function. When holding and manipulating a hand-held object healthy individuals are typically able to highly coordinate the perpendicular (grip force; GF) with the tangential component of the contact force (load force; LF). The purpose of this review is to present the findings of our recent studies of GF-LF coordination. Regarding the mechanical factors affecting GF-LF coordination, our data suggest that both different hand segments and their particular skin areas could have markedly different friction properties. It also appears that the absolute, rather than relative safety margin (i.e., how much the actual GF exceeds the minimum value that prevents slipping) should be a variable of choice when assessing the applied magnitude of GF. The safety margin could also be lower in static than in free holding tasks. Regarding the involved neural factors, the data suggest that the increased frequency, rather than an increased range of a cyclic LF could have a prominent detrimental effect on the GF-LF coordination. Finally, it appears that the given instructions (e.g., 'to hold' vs. 'to pull') can prominently alter GF-LF coordination in otherwise identical manipulation tasks. Conversely, the effects of handedness could be relatively week showing only slight lagging of GF in the non-dominant, but not in the dominant hand. The presented findings reveal important aspects of hand function as seen through GF-LF coordination. Specifically, the use of specific hand areas for grasping, calculation of particular safety margins, the role of LF frequency (but not of LF range) and the effects of given instructions should be all taken into account when conducting future studies of manipulation tasks, standardizing their procedures and designing routine clinical tests of hand function.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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