Motor equivalence during multi-finger accurate force production
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We explored stability of multi-finger cyclical accurate force production action by analysis of responses to small perturbations applied to one of the fingers and inter-cycle analysis of variance. Healthy subjects performed two versions of the cyclical task, with and without an explicit target. The “inverse piano” apparatus was used to lift/lower a finger by 1 cm over 0.5 s; the subjects were always instructed to perform the task as accurate as they could at all times. Deviations in the spaces of finger forces and modes (hypothetical commands to individual fingers) were quantified in directions that did not change total force (motor equivalent) and in directions that changed the total force (non-motor equivalent). Motor equivalent deviations started immediately with the perturbation and increased progressively with time. After a sequence of lifting–lowering perturbations leading to the initial conditions, motor equivalent deviations were dominating. These phenomena were less pronounced for analysis performed with respect to the total moment of force with respect to an axis parallel to the forearm/hand. Analysis of inter-cycle variance showed consistently higher variance in a subspace that did not change the total force as compared to the variance that affected total force. We interpret the results as reflections of task-specific stability of the redundant multi-finger system. Large motor equivalent deviations suggest that reactions of the neuromotor system to a perturbation involve large changes in neural commands that do not affect salient performance variables, even during actions with the purpose to correct those salient variables. Consistency of the analyses of motor equivalence and variance analysis provides additional support for the idea of task-specific stability ensured at a neural level.