Journal of Neurophysiology

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Memory representations underlying motor commands used during manipulation of common and novel objects

A. M. Gordon, G. Westling, K. J. Cole, R. S. Johansson


1. While subjects lifted a variety of commonly handled objects of different shapes, weights, and densities, the isometric vertical lifting force opposing the object's weight was recorded from an analog weight scale, which was instrumented with high-stiffness strain gauge transducers. 2. The force output was scaled differently for the various objects from the first lift, before sensory information related to the object's weight was available. The force output was successfully specified from information in memory related to the weight of common objects, because only small changes in the force-rate profiles occurred across 10 consecutive lifts. This information was retrieved during a process related to visual identification of the target object. 3. The amount of practice necessary to appropriately scale the vertical lifting and grip (pinch) force was also studied when novel objects (equipped with force transducers at the grip surfaces) of different densities were encountered. The mass of a test object that subjects had not seen previously was adjusted to either 300 or 1,000 g by inserting an appropriate mass in the object's base without altering its appearance. This resulted in either a density that was in the range of most common objects (1.2 kg/l) or a density that was unusually high (4.0 kg/l). 4. Low vertical-lifting and grip-force rates were used initially with the high-density object, as if a lighter object had been expected. However, within the first few trials, the duration of the loading phase (period of isometric force increase before lift-off) was reduced by nearly 50% and the employed force-rate profiles were targeted for the weight of the object.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)