The Precision of the Human Hand: Variability in Pinch Strength and Manual Dexterity
Bardo A., Town K., Kivell TL., Donati G., Ballieux H., Stamate C., Edginton T., Forrester GS.
Changes in hand morphology throughout human evolution have facilitated the use of forceful pad-to-pad precision grips, contributing to the development of fine motor movement and dexterous manipulation typical of modern humans. Today, variation in human hand function may be affected by demographic and/or lifestyle factors, but these remain largely unexplored. We measured pinch grip strength and dexterity in a heterogeneous cross-sectional sample of human participants (n = 556) to test for the potential effects of sex, age, hand asymmetries, hand morphology, and frequently practiced manual activities across the lifespan. We found a significant effect of sex on pinch strength, dexterity, and different directional asymmetries, with the practice of manual musical instruments, significantly increasing female dexterity for both hands. Males and females with wider hands were also stronger, but not more precise, than those with longer hands, while the thumb-index ratio had no effect. Hand dominance asymmetry further had a significant effect on dexterity but not on pinch strength. These results indicate that different patterns of hand asymmetries and hand function are influenced in part by life experiences, improving our understanding of the link between hand form and function and offering a referential context for interpreting the evolution of human dexterity.