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Are reaching and grasping effector-independent? Similarities and differences in reaching and grasping kinematics between the hand and foot

By Yuqi Liu, James Caracoglia, Sriparna Sen, Ella Striem-Amit

Posted 28 Oct 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.10.26.464901

While reaching and grasping are highly prevalent manual actions, neuroimaging studies provide evidence that their neural representations may be shared between different body parts, i.e. effectors. If these actions are guided by effector-independent mechanisms, similar kinematics should be observed when the action is performed by the hand or by a cortically remote and less experienced effector, such as the foot. We tested this hypothesis with two characteristic components of action: the initial ballistic stage of reaching, and the preshaping of the digits during grasping based on object size. We examined if these kinematic features reflect effector-independent mechanisms by asking participants to reach toward and to grasp objects of different widths with their hand and foot. First, during both reaching and grasping, the velocity profile up to peak velocity matched between the hand and the foot, indicating a shared ballistic acceleration phase. Secondly, maximum grip aperture and time of maximum grip aperture of grasping increased with object size for both effectors, indicating encoding of object size during transport. Differences between the hand and foot were found in the deceleration phase and time of maximum grip aperture, likely due to biomechanical differences and the participants' inexperience with foot actions. These findings provide evidence for effector-independent visuomotor mechanisms of reaching and grasping that generalize across body parts.

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