Effects of visual cues of object density on perception and anticipatory control of dexterous manipulation

Céline Crajé, Marco Santello, Andrew M. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Anticipatory force planning during grasping is based on visual cues about the object’s physical properties and sensorimotor memories of previous actions with grasped objects. Vision can be used to estimate object mass based on the object size to identify and recall sensorimotor memories of previously manipulated objects. It is not known whether subjects can use density cues to identify the object’s center of mass (CM) and create compensatory moments in an anticipatory fashion during initial object lifts to prevent tilt. We asked subjects (n=8) to estimate CM location of visually symmetric objects of uniform densities (plastic or brass, symmetric CM) and non-uniform densities (mixture of plastic and brass, asymmetric CM). We then asked whether subjects can use density cues to scale fingertip forces when lifting the visually symmetric objects of uniform and non-uniform densities. Subjects were able to accurately estimate an object’s center of mass based on visual density cues. When the mass distribution was uniform, subjects could scale their fingertip forces in an anticipatory fashion based on the estimation. However, despite their ability to explicitly estimate CM location when object density was non-uniform, subjects were unable to scale their fingertip forces to create a compensatory moment and prevent tilt on initial lifts. Hefting object parts in the hand before the experiment did not affect this ability. This suggests a dichotomy between the ability to accurately identify the object’s CM location for objects with non-uniform density cues and the ability to utilize this information to correctly scale their fingertip forces. These results are discussed in the context of possible neural mechanisms underlying sensorimotor integration linking visual cues and anticipatory control of grasping.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • sensory perception
  • grasping


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