PhD Graduation Nathalie van Beek (HMS): Understanding Hand Mechanics and Hand Motor Control in Young and Elderly
02-10-2018 09:45 02-10-2018 11:15 Aula | Main Building | VU Campus

Can a person move his fingers apart? How do your muscles and tendons work together to create a finger movement and what are the consequences of aging?

The human hand has evolved to perform complex actions and enables man to manipulate various objects in daily life. Although the hand is unique in all its possibilities, our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms that make finger movement possible and the consequences of aging are relatively limited. With aging, the mobility of the hand often decreases and the properties of muscles and tendons change.

Forefinger ages first

This is the conclusion of Nathalie van Beek in her thesis: 'Understanding Hand Mechanics and Hand Motor Control in Young and Elderly'. The goal of research is to study different aspects of finger movement: experiments were used to measure the so-called 'finger independence', muscle activations and tendon movements. Both young people (22-29 years) and older people (68-84 years). Firstly, the study showed that we are able to move the fingers completely independently, but only with small finger movements. Second, that the index finger is first affected by aging and therefore less able to move independently. That means moving alone without moving other fingers like the middle finger.

In the elderly global activation pattern

In young people there is also a clear pattern in the muscle activations established, each finger has a specific muscle that controls the finger. In the elderly, however, there is a more global activation pattern of the muscles, specifically this means that the muscles of several fingers are activated at the same time instead of one muscle for one finger. This can also be a possible explanation for the loss of finger independence in the elderly. More research is still necessary, however, to further map all aspects of finger movement.