Variable and asymmetric range of enslaving: Fingers can act independently over small range of flexion

Josien C. Van Den Noort, Nathalie Van Beek, Thomas Van Der Kraan, Dirk Jan H E J Veeger, Dick F. Stegeman, Peter H. Veltink, Huub Maas

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The variability in the numerous tasks in which we use our hands is very large. However, independent movement control of individual fingers is limited. To assess the extent of finger independency during full-range finger flexion including all finger joints, we studied enslaving (movement in non-instructed fingers) and range of independent finger movement through the whole finger flexion trajectory in single and multi-finger movement tasks. Thirteen young healthy subjects performed single- and multi-finger movement tasks under two conditions: active flexion through the full range of movement with all fingers free to move and active flexion while the non-instructed finger(s) were restrained. Finger kinematics were measured using inertial sensors (PowerGlove), to assess enslaving and range of independent finger movement. Although all fingers showed enslaving movement to some extent, highest enslaving was found in adjacent fingers. Enslaving effects in ring and little finger were increased with movement of additional, non-adjacent fingers. The middle finger was the only finger affected by restriction in movement of non-instructed fingers. Each finger showed a range of independent movement before the non-instructed fingers started to move, which was largest for the index finger. The start of enslaving was asymmetrical for adjacent fingers. Little finger enslaving movement was affected by multi-finger movement. We conclude that no finger can move independently through the full range of finger flexion, although some degree of full independence is present for smaller movements. This range of independent movement is asymmetric and variable between fingers and between subjects. The presented results provide insight into the role of finger independency for different types of tasks and populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0168636
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

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