Age-related differences in inter-digit coupling during finger pinching

Justin Keogh*, S. Morrison, R. Barrett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The present study was designed to examine the finger-pinch force control, digit force sharing and digit coupling relations of 13 young and 14 older adults. Subjects performed four isometric tri-digit finger-pinch force production conditions reflecting all combinations of mean force level (20 and 40% MVC) and target shape (constant and sinusoidal). Older adults had significantly reduced force control, as indicated by their greater levels of absolute and relative force variability and targeting error than young adults. The age-related loss of relative force control was more pronounced at low (20% MVC) than high (40% MVC) forces, and to a lesser extent, in sinusoidal than constant force conditions. Older adults had significantly greater peak and proportional power below 1.5 Hz than young adults, with this especially pronounced in constant force conditions. Digit force sharing results indicated that the index finger's contribution to total force was increased and the middle finger's contribution reduced in older than young adults. The results of the cross-correlation analyses revealed that older subjects had a significantly reduced level of coupling between the middle finger and the target force, thumb force and EMG signals, with longer time lags in comparison to young adults. These differences in force sharing and middle finger force coupling were more pronounced in sinusoidal than constant force conditions. Overall, these results suggest that the older adults' reduced force control reflected age-related differences in the sharing and coupling of the finger forces. The results also highlighted that tasks of this nature display a degree of task-dependency, with these overall differences in digit force output and coupling not consistently observed across all force conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


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