Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Experimentation cerebrale
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Successfully picking up and handling objects requires taking into account their physical properties (e.g., material) and position relative to the body. Such features are often inferred by sight, but it remains unclear to what extent observers vary their actions depending on the perceived properties. To investigate this, we asked participants to grasp, lift and carry cylinders to a goal location with a precision grip. The cylinders were made of four different materials (Styrofoam, wood, brass and an additional brass cylinder covered with Vaseline) and were presented at six different orientations with respect to the participant (0°, 30°, 60°, 90°, 120°, 150°). Analysis of their grasping kinematics revealed differences in timing and spatial modulation at all stages of the movement that depended on both material and orientation. Object orientation affected the spatial configuration of index finger and thumb during the grasp, but also the timing of handling and transport duration. Material affected the choice of local grasp points and the duration of the movement from the first visual input until release of the object. We find that conditions that make grasping more difficult (orientation with the base pointing toward the participant, high weight and low surface friction) lead to longer durations of individual movement segments and a more careful placement of the fingers on the object.