Overpressure on fingertips prevents state estimation of the pen grip force and movement accuracy

Jérémy Danna, Mathilde Nordlund, Didier Louber, Simon Moré, & Laurence Mouchnino

Experimental Brain Research (in press)

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We tested the hypothesis that the inability to move a pen accurately in a graphic task is partly due to a decrease of afferent somatosensory information resulting from overpressure on the tactile receptors of the fingers holding the pen. To disentangle the depressed somatosensory origin from an altered motor command, we compared a condition in which the participant actively produces pressure on the pen (active grip) with a condition in which pressure is passively applied (passive grip, no grip-related motor command). We expected that the response of the somatosensory cortex to electric stimulation of the wrist’s tactile nerve (i.e., SEP) would be greater in the natural pen grip (baseline condition) than in the two overpressure conditions (actively or passively induced). Fifteen adults were required to trace a geometrical shape in the three grip conditions. The SEP amplitude was not significantly different between the baseline and both overpressure conditions. However, behavioral results showed that drawing accuracy is impaired when the pressure on the pen is increased (passively or actively). Cortical source analyses revealed that the activity of the superior parietal areas (SPL) increased in both overpressure conditions. Our findings suggest that the SPL is critical for sensorimotor integration, by maintaining an internal representation of pen holding. These cortical changes might witness the impaired updating of the finger–pen interaction force for such drawing actions under visual guidance.

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