Hemispheric differences in the control of limb dynamics: A link between arm performance asymmetries and arm selection patterns

Chase J. Coelho, Andrzej Przybyla, Vivek Yadav, Robert L. Sainburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Human handedness has been described and measured from two perspectives: handedness inventories rate hand preferences, whereas other tests examine motor performance asymmetries. These two measurement approaches reflect a major controversy in a literature that defines handedness as either a preference or an asymmetry in sensorimotor processing. Over the past decade, our laboratory has developed a model of handedness based on lateralization of neural processes. This model attributes distinct control processes to each hemisphere, which in turn lead to observable interlimb sensorimotor performance asymmetries. We now hypothesize that arm preference, or choice, may depend on the interaction between sensorimotor performance asymmetries and the given task. The purpose of this study is to examine whether arm selection is linked to interlimb performance asymmetries during reaching. Right-handed subjects made choice and nonchoice reaches to each of eight targets (d = 3.5 cm) arranged radially (r = 13 cm) around a midline starting position. We displaced each cursor (one associated with each hand) 30 cm to the midline start circle to ensure that there were no hemispace-related geometric, mechanical, or perceptual biases to use either arm for the two midline targets. The three targets on each side of the midline received mostly reaches from the ipsilateral arm, a tendency previously described as a "hemispace bias." However, the midline targets, which were equidistant from each hand, received more dominant arm reaches. Dominant arm hand paths to these targets were straighter and more accurately directed. Inverse dynamics analyses revealed a more proficient dominant arm strategy that exploited intersegmental dynamics to a greater extent than did the nondominant arm. These findings suggest that sensorimotor asymmetries in dynamic coordination might explain limb choices. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of action selection, models of handedness, and models of neural lateralization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-838
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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