Learned Manipulation at Unconstrained Contacts Does Not Transfer across Hands

Fu, Qiushi; Choi, Jason Y.; Gordon, Andrew Michael; Jesunathadas, Mark; Santello, Marco

Recent studies about sensorimotor control of the human hand have focused on how dexterous manipulation is learned and generalized. Here we address this question by testing the extent to which learned manipulation can be transferred when the contralateral hand is used and/or object orientation is reversed. We asked subjects to use a precision grip to lift a grip device with an asymmetrical mass distribution while minimizing object roll during lifting by generating a compensatory torque. Subjects were allowed to grasp anywhere on the object’s vertical surfaces, and were therefore able to modulate both digit positions and forces. After every block of eight trials performed in one manipulation context (i.e., using the right hand and at a given object orientation), subjects had to lift the same object in the second context for one trial (transfer trial). Context changes were made by asking subjects to switch the hand used to lift the object and/or rotate the object 180° about a vertical axis. Therefore, three transfer conditions, hand switch (HS), object rotation (OR), and both hand switch and object rotation (HS+OR), were tested and compared with hand matched control groups who did not experience context changes. We found that subjects in all transfer conditions adapted digit positions across multiple transfer trials similar to the learning of control groups, regardless of different changes of contexts. Moreover, subjects in both HS and HS+OR group also adapted digit forces similar to the control group, suggesting independent learning of the left hand. In contrast, the OR group showed significant negative transfer of the compensatory torque due to an inability to adapt digit forces. Our results indicate that internal representations of dexterous manipulation tasks may be primarily built through the hand used for learning and cannot be transferred across hands.


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Academic Units
Biobehavioral Sciences
Public Library of Science
Published Here
October 1, 2016