Influences of Cutaneous Sensory Input on the Motor Coordination during Precision Manipulation

  • R. S. Johansson
  • G. Westling
Part of the Wenner-Gren Center International Symposium Series book series (EMISS, volume 12)


Despite that tactile skin sensation has been regarded as essential for refined motor acts since long ago (e.g. Mott & Sherrington, 1895), little is known about the functional role of tactile afferent input in the control of hand movements and posture. In various lesions of sensory nerves supplying the hand, patients often exhibit motor defects although the innervation of the muscles may be intact. Indeed, rather than emphasizing the loss of sensibility, such patients make complaints about their motor deficiences (e.g. Moberg, 1962). Typically, they show difficulties with gripping and holding objects and clumsiness during fine manipulatory movements. Tasks involving the precision grip (Napier, 1956) between the tips of fingers and thumb appear to be particularly affected. These difficulties indicate an impaired balance, or coordination, between the grip forces and the load forces within the grip. Although the precision grip has frequently been examined with regard to a variety of motor control problems (e.g. Lawrence & Kuypers, 1968; Long et al., 1970; Brinkman & Kuypers 1973; Smith et al., 1975; Roland, 1978; Passingham et al., 1978; Lemon, 1981; Smith & Bourbonnais, 1981), there have been no quantitative studies concerning this force coordination. Neither has the possible role of the tactile input been considered in this context


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bowden, F.P., Tabor, D. (1973). Friction - An Introduction to Tribology, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Brinkman, J., Kuypers, H.G.J.M. (1973). Cerebral control of contralateral and ipsilateral arm, hand and finger movements in the split-brain Rhesus monkey. Brain, 96, 653–674PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Caccia, M.R., McComas, A.J., Upton, A.R.M., Blogg, T. (1973) Cutaneous reflexes in small muscles of the hand. J. Neurol, Neurosurg. Psychiat., 36, 960–977CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crago, P.E., Houk, J.C., Hasan, Z. (1976). Regulatory actions of human stretch reflex. J. Neurophysiol., 39, 925–935PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Comaish, S., Bottoms, E. (1971). The skin and friction: deviations from Amonton’s law, and the effects of hydration and lubrication. Br.J. Derm., 84, 37–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Denny-Brown, D. (1966). The cerebral control of movement. Liverpool: The Liverpool Univ. PressGoogle Scholar
  7. Evarts, E.V., Vaughn, W.J. (1978). Intended arm movements in response to externally produced am displacements in man. In Cerebral Motor Control in Man: Long loop, Mechanisms, ed. J. E. Desmedt, pp. 178–192, Basel: KargerGoogle Scholar
  8. Evarts, E.V. (1980). Brain mechanisms in voluntary movement. In Neural Mechanisms in Behavior, ed. D. McFadden, pp. 223–259. New York: SpringerCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forssberg, H. (1979). Stumbling corrective reaction: A phase-dependent compensatory reaction during locomotion. J. Neurophysiol., 42, 936–953PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Garnett, R., Stephens, J.A. (1980). The reflex responses of single motor units in human first dorsal interosseus muscle following cutaneous afferent stimulation. J. Physiol. (Lond.), 351–364Google Scholar
  11. Garnett, R., Stephens, J.A. (1981). Changes in the recruitment threshold of motor units produced by cutaneous stimulation in man. J. Physiol. (Lond.), 311, 463–473Google Scholar
  12. Houk, J.C. (1978). Participation of reflex mechanisms and reaction time processes in the compensatory adjustments to mechanical disturbances. In Cerebral Motor Control in Man: Long Loop Mechanisms, ed. J. E. Desmedt, pp. 193–215, Basel: KargerGoogle Scholar
  13. Houk, J.C., Rymers, W.Z. (1981). Neural control of muscle lenght and tension. In Handbook of Physiology,, The Nervous System. Vol. 2, ed. V.B. Brooks, pp. 257–323, Bethesda, Maryland: Am. Physiol. SocGoogle Scholar
  14. Jenner, J.R., Stephens, J.A. (1982). Cutaneous reflex responses and their central nervous pathways studied in man. J. Physiol. (Lond.), 333, 405–419Google Scholar
  15. Johansson, R.S., Vallbo, Å.B. (1983) Tactile sensory coding in the glabrous skin of the human hand. Trends in Neuroscience, 6, 27–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lawrence, D.G., Kuypers, H.G.J.M. (1968). The functional organization of the motor system in the monkey. I. The effects of bilateral pyramidal lesions. Brain, 91, 1–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lemon, R.N. (1981). Functional properties of monkey motor cortex neurones receiving afferent input from the hand and fingers. J. Physiol. (Lond.), 311, 497–311PubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Long, C.H., Conrad, P.W., Hall, E.A., Furler, S.L. (1970). Intrinsic and extrinsic muscle control of the hand in power grip and precision handling. J. Bone Jt. Surg., 52A, 853–867Google Scholar
  19. Marsden, C.D., Merton, P.A., Morton, H.B. (1977). The sensory mechanism of servoaction in human muscle. J. Physiol. (Lond.), 521–535Google Scholar
  20. McCloskey, D.I., Gandevia, S.G. (1978). Role of skin, joints and muscles and of corollary discharges, in human discrimination tasks. In Active Touch, ed. Gordon, G., pp 177–187. Oxford: PergamonGoogle Scholar
  21. Moberg, E. (1962). Criticism and study of methods for examining sensibility in the hand. Neurology, 12, 8–19PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mott, F.W., Sherrington, C.S. (1895). Experiments upon the influence of sensory nerves upon movement and nutrition of the limbs. Proc. R. Soc., B., 57, 481–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Napier, J.R. (1956). The prehensile movements of the human hand. J. Bone Jt. Surg., 902–913Google Scholar
  24. Phillips, C. G., Porter, R. (1977). Corticospinal Neurones. London: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  25. Passingham. R., Perry, H., Wilkinsson, F. (1978). Failure to develop a precision grip in monkeys with unilateral neocortical lesions made in infancy. Brain Res., 145, 410–415PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Roland, P.E. (1978). Sensory feedback to the cerebral cortex during voluntary movement in man. Behav. Brain Sci. 1, 129–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rood, O.N. (1860). On contraction of the muscles induced by contact with bodies in vibration. Am. J. Sci. Arts, 24, 449Google Scholar
  28. Sherrington, C.S. (1947). The integrative action of the nervous system ( 2nd ed. ). New Haven CT: Yale Univ. PressGoogle Scholar
  29. Smith, A.M., Bourbonnais, D. (1981). Neuronal activity in cerebellar cortex related to control of prehensile force. J. Neurophysiol., 45, 286–303PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Smith, A.M., Hepp-Reymond, M.C., Wyss, U.R. (1975). Relation of activity in precentral cortical neurons to force and rate of force change during isometric contractions of finger muscles. Exp. Brain Res., 23, 315–332PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Torebjörk, H.E., Hagbarth, K.-E., Eklund, G. (1978). Tonic finger flexion reflex induced by vibratory activation of digital mechanoreceptors. In Active Touch, ed Gordon, G., pp. 197–203. Oxford: PergamonGoogle Scholar
  32. Vallbo, Å.B., Hagbarth, K.-E. (1968). Activity from skin mechanoreceptors recorded percutaneously in avake human subjects. Expl. Neurol., 21, 270–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vierck, C.J. (1978). Interpretations of the sensory and motor consequences of dorsal column lesions. In Active Touch, ed. Gordong, G., pp. 139–159, Oxford: PergamonGoogle Scholar
  34. Westling, G., Johansson, R.S. (1983). Factors influencing the force control during precision grip. Exp. Brain Res., In pressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Wenner-Gren Center 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. S. Johansson
    • 1
  • G. Westling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden

Personalised recommendations