The neural foundations of handedness: Insights from a rare case of deafferentation

S. A.L. Jayasinghe, F. R. Sarlegna, R. A. Scheidt, R. L. Sainburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The role of proprioceptive feedback on motor lateralization remains unclear. We asked whether motor lateralization is dependent on proprioceptive feedback by examining a rare case of proprioceptive deafferentation (GL). Motor lateralization is thought to arise from asymmetries in neural organization, particularly at the cortical level. For example, we have previously provided evidence that the left hemisphere mediates optimal motor control that allows execution of smooth and efficient arm trajectories, while the right hemisphere mediates impedance control that can achieve stable and accurate final arm postures. The role of proprioception in both of these processes has previously been demonstrated empirically, bringing into question whether loss of proprioception will disrupt lateralization of motor performance. In this study, we assessed whether the loss of online sensory information produces deficits in integrating specific control contributions from each hemisphere by using a reaching task to examine upper limb kinematics in GL and five age-matched controls. Behavioral findings revealed differential deficits in the control of the left and right hands in GL and performance deficits in each of GL’s hands compared with controls. Computational simulations can explain the behavioral results as a disruption in the integration of postural and trajectory control mechanisms when no somatosensory information is available. This rare case of proprioceptive deafferentation provides insights into developing a more accurate understanding of handedness that emphasizes the role of proprioception in both predictive and feedback control mechanisms. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The role of proprioceptive feedback on the lateralization of motor control mechanisms is unclear. We examined upper limb kinematics in a rare case of peripheral deafferentation to determine the role of sensory information in integrating motor control mechanisms from each hemisphere. Our empirical findings and computational simulations showed that the loss of somatosensory information results in an impaired integration of control mechanisms, thus providing support for a complementary dominance hypothesis of handedness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-267
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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