Task-dependent viscoelasticity of human multijoint arm and its spatial characteristics for interaction with environments

Hiroaki Gomi*, Rieko Osu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Citations (Scopus)


Human arm viscoelasticity is important in stabilizing posture, movement, and in interacting with objects. Viscoelastic spatial characteristics are usually indexed by the size, shape, and orientation of a hand stiffness ellipse. It is well known that arm posture is a dominant factor in determining the properties of the stiffness ellipse. However, it is still unclear how much joint stiffness can change under different conditions, and the effects of that change on the spatial characteristics of hand stiffness are poorly examined. To investigate the dexterous control mechanisms of the human arm, we studied the controllability and spatial characteristics of viscoelastic properties of human multijoint arm during different cocontractions and force interactions in various directions and amplitudes in a horizontal plane. We found that different cocontraction ratios between shoulder and elbow joints can produce changes in the shape and orientation of the stiffness ellipse, especially at proximal hand positions. During force regulation tasks we found that shoulder and elbow single-joint stiffness was each roughly proportional to the torque of its own joint, and cross-joint stiffness was correlated with elbow torque. Similar tendencies were also found in the viscosity-torque relationships. As a result of the joint stiffness changes, the orientation and shape of the stiffness ellipses varied during force regulation tasks as well. Based on these observations, we consider why we can change the ellipse characteristics especially in the proximal posture. The present results suggest that humans control directional characteristics of hand stiffness by changing joint stiffness to achieve various interactions with objects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8965-8978
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1998 Nov 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Arm control
  • Arm stiffness
  • Arm viscosity
  • Environmental interaction
  • Human arm mechanical impedance
  • Isometric force control
  • Muscle control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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