A frequency associated deterioration of the hand grip (GF; normal component of force acting at the digits-object contact area) and load force (LF; the tangential component) coordination has been demonstrated in a variety of repetitive manipulation tasks. However, it remains unknown whether the effect originates from the task frequency per se, or from the rate of LF change (a prediction that could be derived from the minimum jerk hypothesis) which increases with both LF frequency and LF range. The aim of the study was to discern between the effects of LF frequency and LF range (which affects only the rate of LF) in static manipulation tasks. Subjects (N=15) exerted a sinusoidal LF pattern against an externally fixed instrumented handle at 5 different LF frequencies (0.67-3.33. Hz) and ranges (6-30. N). The results revealed weak and mainly non-significant effects of both LF range and frequency on GF scaling (GF/LF ratio). However, both GF-LF coupling (assessed by correlation coefficients) and GF modulation (change in GF relative to LF variation) demonstrated a prominent decrease associated with LF frequency, but not with LF range. The observed findings were interpreted by switching between hypothetical synergies of GF and LF producing muscles separately employed in the phases of the increasing and decreasing forces. From the practical aspect, however, the results suggest that the frequency, but not the LF range should be taken into account when designing rhythmic manipulation tasks, developing standard tests of hand function based on GF-LF coordination, or comparing the data from different studies.
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