We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to explore the stability of the three constituents of the multi-finger prehension synergy. Patterns of co-variation between mechanical variables produced by individual digits were used as indices of the prehension synergy. We tested hypotheses that TMS would violate these patterns and that different components of the prehension synergy would take different times to restore. Subjects held an instrumented handle with one of the three external load and one of the seven external torques statically in the air. Single-pulse TMS was applied unexpectedly over the hand projection in the contralateral hemisphere. The normal forces showed a quick TMS-induced increase that was proportional to the background force magnitude. This was also true for the tangential forces produced by the thumb, middle, and ring fingers but not by the index and little fingers. The total moment of force changed proportionally to its background value with predominance of supination responses. During the quick force response to TMS, patterns of digit force co-variation stabilizing the total tangential force and total moment of force were violated. Two stages of synergy restoration were identified taking approximately 0.3 and 1.5 s. These times differed among the three synergy components. The results support the idea of a prehension synergy as a neural mechanism that facilitates conjoint changes in forces produced by individual digits with the purpose to stabilize the hand action on the hand-held object. The data also support applicability of the principle of superposition to the human hand action.
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