Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 12, pp 3431–3447 | Cite as

Human string-pulling with and without a string: movement, sensory control, and memory

  • Surjeet SinghEmail author
  • Alexei Mandziak
  • Kalob Barr
  • Ashley A. Blackwell
  • Majid H. Mohajerani
  • Douglas G. Wallace
  • Ian Q. Whishaw
Research Article


String-pulling is a behavior that is allied to many daily acts and is an easily performed action featuring hand-over-hand movements to reel in a string (or rope). String-pulling has been used as a test of perceptual and cognitive functions in many animal species, including human children, but its movements and sensory control have not been characterized. Male and female university students (n = 68) performed target-based or memory-based string-pulling in which they pulled down a string suspended on an overhead pulley and immediately afterwards attempted to make the same movement in a memory-based test. Frame-by-frame video scoring was used to describe movements, eye-tracking and visual occluding glasses were used to assess sensory control, and a Matlab video-analysis procedure was used to describe kinematics. The string was advanced using five arm/hand movements: with lift and advance comprising fast up movements, and grasp, pull and push comprising slow down movements. Fingers closed 5 (pinky) through 1 (thumb) to make a whole-hand grasp and release in target-based string pulling but moved in a reverse sequence for the memory-based task. Target-based string pulling was not visually guided unless participants were instructed to grasp at a cue, and then vision featured eye-tracking of the target and pupil dilation with the grasp, but there was no relation between eye events for memory-based string-pulling. For target-based string-pulling the left and right hands advanced the string with both independent and concurrent movement but only independent movements were featured in a more symmetrical memory-based movement. The results are discussed in relation to the sensory control of hand movements, contemporary theories of the neural control of hand movements, and species differences in string-pulling.


String-pulling Sensory control Reach and grasp Pantomime Bimanual coordination Kinematics 


Supplementary material

221_2019_5684_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (1.6 mb)
Video 1. Representative video of target-based string-pulling. (MP4 1643 kb)
221_2019_5684_MOESM2_ESM.mp4 (1.4 mb)
Video 2. Representative video of memory-based sting-pulling. (MP4 1445 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (CCBN)University of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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