The dynamics of wrist rotations are dominated by joint stiffness, which the neuromuscular system must account and compensate for when controlling wrist movements. Because wrist stiffness is anisotropic, movements in some directions require less torque than movements in others, creating opportunities to follow "paths of least resistance." Forearm pronation-supination (PS) can combine with wrist flexion-extension (FE) and radial-ulnar deviation (RUD) to allow the wrist to rotate in directions of least stiffness. Evaluating this hypothesis, and understanding the control of combined wrist and forearm rotations in general, requires a knowledge of the stiffness (the dominant mechanical impedance) encountered during combined wrist and forearm rotations. While wrist and forearm stiffness have been measured in isolation, there are no measurements of coupled wrist and the forearm stiffness. This study characterizes the passive stiffness of the wrist and forearm in combinations of FE, RUD, and PS. Using a wrist and forearm robot, we measured coupled wrist and forearm stiffness for 15° movements from neutral position in 10 young, healthy subjects. We found the stiffness in PS to be significantly smaller than the stiffness in RUD, but similar in magnitude to the stiffness in FE, indicating that the torque required to overcome stiffness in combinations of PS and FE is significantly smaller than the torque required to overcome stiffness in combinations of FE and RUD (assuming equal displacements). The coupled stiffness measured here will enable future studies to determine optimal paths and to compare these optimal paths to observed movements involving wrist and forearm rotations.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





wrist, forearm, stiffness, passive, muscle tone, motor control