Joint angles and angular velocities and relevance of eigenvectors during prehension in the monkey

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Hand shaping during prehension involves intricate coordination of a complex system of bones, joints, and muscles. It is widely hypothesized that the motor system uses strategies to reduce the degrees of independent control. Both biomechanical constraints that result in coupling of the fingers and joints and neural synergies act to simplify the control problem. Synergies in hand shaping are typically defined using principal component-like analyses to define orthogonal patterns of movement. Although much less examined, joint angle velocities are also important parameters governing prehension. The primary goal of this study was to evaluate joint angles and joint angle velocities during prehension in monkeys. Fourteen joint angles and angular velocities were measured as monkeys reached to and grasped a set of objects designed to systematically vary hand shapes. Hand shaping patterns in joint angles and velocities were examined using singular value decomposition (SVD). Highly correlated patterns of movements were observed in both joint angles and joint angle velocities, but there was little correlation between the two, suggesting that velocities are controlled separately. Joint angles and velocities can be defined by a small number of eigenvectors by SVD. The unresolved question of the functional relevance of higher-order eigenvectors was also evaluated. Results support that higher-order components are not easily distinguished from noise and are likely not of physiological significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-350
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Angular velocities
  • Hand shaping
  • Joint angles
  • Principal components
  • Reach to grasp
  • Synergy


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