Do synergies decrease force variability? A study of single-finger and multi-finger force production

Elena Yu Shapkova, Alexandra L. Shapkova, Simon R. Goodman, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We tested a hypothesis that force production by multi-finger groups leads to lower indices of force variability as compared to similar single-finger tasks. Three experiments were performed with quick force production, steady-state force production under visual feedback, and steady-state force production without visual feedback. In all experiments, a range of force levels was used computed as percentages of the maximal voluntary contraction force for each involved finger combination. Force standard deviation increased linearly with force magnitude across all three experiments and all finger combinations. There were modest differences between multi-finger and single-finger tasks in the indices of force variability, significant only in the tasks with steady-state force production under visual feedback. When fingers acted in groups, each finger showed significantly higher force variability as compared to its single-finger task and as compared to the multi-finger group as a whole. Fingers that were not instructed to produce force also showed close to linear relations between force standard deviation and force magnitude. For these fingers, indices of force variability were much higher as compared to those computed for the forces produced by instructed fingers. We interpret the findings within a feed-forward scheme of multi-finger control with two inputs only one of which is related to the explicit task. The total force variability reflects variability in only the task-related component, while variability of the finger forces is also due to variability of the component that is not related to the task. The findings tentatively suggest that total force variability originates at an upper level of the control hierarchy in accordance to the Weber-Fechner law rather than reflects a "neural noise" at the segmental level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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