Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of changes in degrees of freedom of the fingers (i.e., the number of the fingers involved in tasks) on the task performance during force production and releasing task.
Method: Eight right-handed young men (age: 29.63±3.02 yr, height: 1.73±0.04 m, weight: 70.25±9.05 kg) participated in this study. The subjects were required to press the transducers with three combinations of fingers, including the index-middle (IM), index-middle-ring (IMR), and index-middle-ring-little (IMRL). During the trials, they were instructed to maintain a steady-state level of both normal and tangential forces within the first 5 sec. After the first 5 sec, the subjects were instructed to release the fingers on the transducers as quickly as possible at a self-selected manner within the next 5 sec, resulting in zero force at the end. Customized MATLAB codes (MathWorks Inc., Natick, MA, USA) were written for data analysis. The following variables were quantified: 1) finger force sharing pattern, 2) root mean square error (RMSE) of force to the target force in three axes at the aiming phase, 3) the time duration of the release phase (release time), and 4) the accuracy and precision indexes of the virtual firing position.
Results: The RMSE was decreased with the number of fingers increased in both normal and tangential forces at the steady-state phase. The precision index was smaller (more precise) in the IMR condition than in the IM condition, while no significant difference in the accuracy index was observed between the conditions. In addition, no significant difference in release time was found between the conditions.
Conclusion: The study provides evidence that the increased number of fingers resulted in better error compensation at the aiming phase and performed a more constant shooting (i.e., smaller precision index). However, the increased number of fingers did not affect the release time, which may influence the consistency of terminal performance. Thus, the number of fingers led to positive results for the current task.