Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology




Peter Keir




Biomechanical and neural factors have both been suggested to contribute to the limited independence of finger movement and involuntary force production. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the degree of finger independence by examining the activity of the four compartments of extensor digitorum (ED) and flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) using surface electromyography and involuntary force production in the non-task fingers using methods such as the “enslaving effect” (EE) and the “selectivity index” (SI). Twelve male participants performed a series of 5-second sub-maximal exertions at 5, 25, 50 and 75% of maximum using isometric isotonic and ramp finger flexion and extension exertions. Ramp exertions were performed from 0 to 85% of each finger’s maximum force with ascending and descending phases taking 4.5 seconds each with 0.5 seconds of plateau at 85%. Lower EE and higher SI (more selective force production) was found in flexion exertions compared to extension partially due to the higher activity of the antagonist ED compartments counterbalancing the involuntary activation of the non-task FDS compartments. Minimal FDS activity was seen during extension exertions. At forces up to and including 50%, both EE and muscle activity of the non-task compartments were significantly higher in descending exertions than the isotonic or ascending exertions. The selectivity index was also lower during the descending flexion and extension exertions at 25 and 50% MVC exertions. Up to mid-level forces, both finger proximity and contraction mode affects involuntary force production and muscle activation while at higher forces only finger proximity (and not the exertion mode) contributes to finger independence. The fingers were less selective at higher exertion levels (75% MVC) and all 3 exertion modes resulted in similar SI at 75% MVC in all flexion and extension exertions.

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