Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
- The anatomical complexity of the hand precludes the direct characterization of the biomechanical consequences of hand disabilities and rehabilitation strategies.
- Because of the functional versatility of the hand, a biomechanical model that encompasses all aspects of hand function is not yet available (and is perhaps not feasible).
- To have a clinical impact, research must focus on specific and clinically relevant aspect of hand function.
- As a starting point, my work has focused on using models of the digits to understand the biomechanics of the production, disability and rehabilitation of static fingertip forces, the fundamental elements of pinch.
- Understanding even this fundamental aspect of hand function requires that we simultaneously consider the mechanical nature of pinch function, the anatomical structure of the digits and the neuromuscular control of the digits.
II. Three current research questions and sample results from studies of the forefinger
- What biomechanical disability can be expected following paralysis of specific muscles?
- Somewhat counter-intuitively, the paralysis of extensor muscles of the forefinger weakens pinch force.
- How should musculotendons be re-routed to maximize post-operative fingertip force?
- Shifting by a few millimeters the insertion point of tendons transferred to prevent claw deformity in low ulnar palsy is predicted to greatly enhance fingertip forces.
- How does the central nervous system (CNS) dynamically control the redundant musculature of the digits?
- The CNS seems to simplify the control of redundant musculature by scaling whole muscle coordination patterns.
III. Ongoing work
- Understanding the interactions between the thumb and other digits necessary to produce effective manipulation.
- Novel experimental paradigms to quantify manipulation performance, disability and rehabilitation.
- Designing objects suitable for manipulation by disabled hands.
Francisco Valero-Cuevas, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor