Grasping Kinematics from the Perspective of the Individual Digits: A Modelling Study
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Grasping is a prototype of human motor coordination. Nevertheless, it is not known what determines the typical movement patterns of grasping. One way to approach this issue is by building models. We developed a model based on the movements of the individual digits. In our model the following objectives were taken into account for each digit: move smoothly to the preselected goal position on the object without hitting other surfaces, arrive at about the same time as the other digit and never move too far from the other digit. These objectives were implemented by regarding the tips of the digits as point masses with a spring between them, each attracted to its goal position and repelled from objects' surfaces. Their movements were damped. Using a single set of parameters, our model can reproduce a wider variety of experimental findings than any previous model of grasping. Apart from reproducing known effects (even the angles under which digits approach trapezoidal objects' surfaces, which no other model can explain), our model predicted that the increase in maximum grip aperture with object size should be greater for blocks than for cylinders. A survey of the literature shows that this is indeed how humans behave. The model can also adequately predict how single digit pointing movements are made. This supports the idea that grasping kinematics follow from the movements of the individual digits.