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Extrinsic flexor muscles generate concurrent flexion of all three finger joints

Journal of Biomechanics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0021-9290(02)00229-4
  • Index Finger
  • Motor Control
  • Stiffness
  • Damping
  • Biology
  • Physics


Abstract The role of the forearm (extrinsic) finger flexor muscles in initiating rotation of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint and in coordinating flexion at the MCP, the proximal interphalangeal (PIP), and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints remains a matter of some debate. To address the biomechanical feasibility of the extrinsic flexors performing these actions, a computer simulation of the index finger was created. The model consisted of a planar open-link chain comprised of three revolute joints and four links, driven by the change in length of the flexor muscles. Passive joint characteristics, included in the model, were obtained from system identification experiments involving the application of angular perturbations to the joint of interest. Simulation results reveal that in the absence of passive joint torque, shortening of the extrinsic flexors results in PIP flexion (80°), but DIP (8°) and MCP (7°) joint extension. The inclusion of normal physiological levels of passive joint torque, however, results in simultaneous flexion of all three joints (63° for DIP, 75° for PIP, and 43° for MCP). Applicability of the simulation results was confirmed by recording finger motion produced by electrical stimulation of the extrinsic flexor muscles for the index finger. These findings support the view that the extrinsic flexor muscles can initiate MCP flexion, and produce simultaneous motion at the MCP, PIP, and DIP joints.

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