Forces and moments generated by the human arm: Variability and control

Y. Xu, A. V. Terekhov, M. L. Latash, V. M. Zatsiorsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Abstract This is an exploratory study of the accurate endpoint force vector production by the human arm in isometric conditions. We formulated three common-sense hypotheses and falsified them in the experiment. The subjects (n = 10) exerted static forces on the handle in eight directions in a horizontal plane for 25 s. The forces were of 4 magnitude levels (10, 20, 30 and 40 % of individual maximal voluntary contractions). The torsion moment on the handle (grasp moment) was not specified in the instruction. The two force components and the grasp moment were recorded, and the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joint torques were computed. The following main facts were observed: (a) While the grasp moment was not prescribed by the instruction, it was always produced. The moment magnitude and direction depended on the instructed force magnitude and direction. (b) The within-trial angular variability of the exerted force vector (angular precision) did not depend on the target force magnitude (a small negative correlation was observed). (c) Across the target force directions, the variability of the exerted force magnitude and directional variability exhibited opposite trends: In the directions where the variability of force magnitude was maximal, the directional variability was minimal and vice versa. (d) The time profiles of joint torques in the trials were always positively correlated, even for the force directions where flexion torque was produced at one joint and extension torque was produced at the other joint. (e) The correlations between the grasp moment and the wrist torque were negative across the tasks and positive within the individual trials. (f) In static serial kinematic chains, the pattern of the joint torques distribution could not be explained by an optimization cost function additive with respect to the torques. Plans for several future experiments have been suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-175
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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