Directional preferences during center-out horizontal shoulder-elbow movements were previously characterized for the dominant arm. These preferences were attributed to a tendency to actively accelerate one joint, while exploiting largely passive motion at the other joint. Since the non-dominant arm is known for inefficient coordination of inter-segmental dynamics, here we hypothesized that directional preferences would differ between the arms. A center-out free-stroke drawing task was used that allowed freedom in the selection of movement directions. The task was performed both with and without a secondary cognitive task that has been shown to increase directional biases of the dominant arm. Mirror-symmetrical directional preferences were observed in both arms, with similar bias strength and secondary task effects. The preferred directions were characterized by maximal exploitation of interaction torques for movement production, but only in the dominant arm. The non-dominant arm failed to benefit from interaction torques. The results point to a hierarchical architecture of control. At the higher level, a movement capable to perform the task while satisfying preferences in joint control is specified through forward dynamic transformations. This process is mediated for both arms from a common neural network adapted to the dominant arm and, specifically, to its ability to exploit interaction torques. Dynamic transformations that determine actual control commands are specified at the lower level of control. An alternative interpretation that strokes might be planned evenly across directions, and biases emerge during movement execution due to anisotropic resistance of intrinsic factors that do not depend on arm dominance is also discussed.
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