The control of joint stiffness is a fundamental mechanism used to control human movements. While many studies have observed how stiffness is modulated for tasks involving shoulder and elbow motion, a limited amount of knowledge is available for wrist movements, though the wrist plays a crucial role in manipulation. We have developed a computational framework based on a realistic musculoskeletal model, which allows one to calculate the passive and active components of the wrist joint stiffness. We first used the framework to validate the musculoskeletal model against experimental measurements of the wrist joint stiffness, and then to study the contribution of different muscle groups to the passive joint stiffness. We finally used the framework to study the effect of muscle cocontraction on the active joint stiffness. The results show that thumb and finger muscles play a crucial role in determining the passive wrist joint stiffness: in the neutral posture, the direction of maximum stiffness aligns with the experimental measurements, and the magnitude increases by 113% when they are included. Moreover, the analysis of the controllability of joint stiffness showed that muscle cocontraction positively correlates with the stiffness magnitude and negatively correlates with the variability of the stiffness orientation (p < 0.01 in both cases). Finally, an exhaustive search showed that with appropriate selection of a muscle activation strategy, the joint stiffness orientation can be arbitrarily modulated. This observation suggests the absence of biomechanical constraints on the controllability of the orientation of the wrist joint stiffness.

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