The Behaviour of Cutaneous and Joint Afferents in the Human Hand During Finger Movements

  • V. G. Macefield


Movements of the fingers cause strains in the skin and joints, exciting mechanoreceptors within these tissues. Although both cutaneous and joint afferents have the capacity to encode changes in joint angle, microneurographic recordings from single afferents in the median and ulnar nerves of human subjects have uncovered some limitations in their information content. Afferents in the glabrous skin of the fingers and palmar aspects of the interphalangeal joints respond primarily towards the limits of rotation during free movements of the fingers. Conversely, afferents from the hairy skin on the back of the hand, and afferents related to the metacarpophalangeal joints, respond to movements throughout the physiological range, offering these afferents potentially important roles in proprioception and motor control. However, the signalling capacities of cutaneous and joint afferents from the palmar aspect of the hand may increase during manipulation, when strain forces in the skin and joint tissues are higher than during free (unloaded) movements. For instance, when pulling forces are applied to an object that is gripped between finger and thumb, both cutaneous and joint afferents in these digits can respond to the imposed load forces — operating well within the physiological range of joint angles.


Joint Angle Ulnar Nerve Radial Nerve Finger Movement Human Hand 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. G. Macefield
    • 1
  1. 1.Prince of Wales Medical Research InstituteRandwickAustralia

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