Coordinated force production in multi-finger tasks: Finger interaction and neural network modeling

Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Zong Ming Li, Mark L. Latash

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221 Scopus citations


During maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) with several fingers, the following three phenomena are observed: (1) the total force produced by all the involved fingers is shared among the fingers in a specific manner (sharing); (2) the force produced by a given finger in a multi-finger task is smaller than the force generated by this finger in a single-finger task (force deficit); (3) the fingers that are not required to produce any force by instruction are involuntary activated (enslaving). We studied involuntary force production by individual fingers (enslaving effects, EE) during tasks when (an)other finger(s) of the hand generated maximal voluntary pressing force in isometric conditions. The subjects (n = 10) were instructed to press as hard as possible on the force sensors with one, two, three and four fingers acting in parallel in all possible combinations. The EE were (A) large, the slave fingers always producing a force ranging from 10.9% to 54.7% of the maximal force produced by the finger in the single-finger task; (B) nearly symmetrical; (C) larger for the neighboring ringers; and (D) non-additive. In most cases, the EE from two or three fingers were smaller than the EE from at least one finger (this phenomenon was coined occlusion). The occlusion cannot be explained only by anatomical musculo-tendinous connections. Therefore, neural factors contribute substantially to the EE. A neural network model that accounts for all the three effects has been developed. The model consists of three layers: the input layer that models a central neural drive; the hidden layer modeling transformation of the central drive into an input signal to the muscles serving several fingers simultaneously (multi-digit muscles); and the output layer representing finger force output. The output of the hidden layer is set inversely proportional to the number of fingers involved. In addition, direct connections between the input and output layers represent signals to the hand muscles serving individual fingers (uni-digit muscles). The network was validated using three different training sets. Single digit muscles contributed from 25% to 50% of the total finger force. The master matrix and the enslaving matrix were computed; they characterize the ability of a given finger to enslave other fingers and its ability to be enslaved. Overall, the neural network modeling suggests that no direct correspondence exists between neural command to an individual finger and finger force. To produce a desired finger force, a command sent to an intended finger should be scaled in accordance with the commands sent to the other fingers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • General Computer Science


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