Hominid thumb strength predicted by high resolution magnetic resonance imaging and force measurements in living subjects

B Bimson, J Ottevanger, N Roberts, G Macho, D Percy, GH Whitehouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates whether in-vivo measurements of the morphology of the pollical distal phalanx (PDP) can be used to predict the maximum force that can be exerted by the thumb in flexion at the interphalangeal joint. A predictive equation was obtained via which measurements of fossil PDP's can be used to predict flexion force in hominids. A home-built insertable coil assembly, which increased the available magnetic field gradient strength from 10 to 40 (mT) m(-1), was used to acquire high resolution T1-weighted 3D SPGR Magnetic Resonance (MR) images of the left and right thumbs of nine volunteers. The subjects' age, sex, weight, height and self-assessed hand-dominance were recorded. The MR images were transferred to a computer for reformatting of sections in the transverse and volar plane (VP). Measurements were made of the maximum length (ML), breadth (MB), tuft breadth (MT) and joint depth (JD) of the PDP. For each subject the maximum flexion force that could be exerted by each thumb was measured. The mean maximum flexion force generated was 8.21 kg (range 5.68-13.13 kg). Considerable inter-individual variability was observed in the magnitude of the force difference between the left and right thumbs and this is greatest in individuals with the strongest thumbs. The best model produced by multiple linear regression analysis of all the available data has a value of r = 0.77 and needs only the two covariates of sex and weight, i.e. FORCE = 2.217 + 0.6651 x WEIGHT + 2.458 x SEX. However, in order to be useful for predicting the maximum flexion force of the thumb in hominids the model should only contain those parameters which can be measured for fossil PDP's. Accordingly, the best predictive model has a value of I = 0.73 and needs only the two covariates of ML and JD, i.e. FORCE = -10.28 + 0.2053 x ML + 1.571 x JD. The maximum force predicted for any of the hominid fossil PDP's was not significantly different from those recorded for the volunteers in the present study, although they were on average somewhat lower than those obtained for modern humans. This may be a reflection of the hominid's overall smaller body weights. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-908
Number of pages10
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • hominid
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Neanderthal
  • pollical distal phalanx (PDP)
  • HAND
  • COIL


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