When the non-dominant arm dominates: the effects of visual information and task experience on speed-accuracy advantages

Brooke Dexheimer, Robert Sainburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Speed accuracy trade-off, the inverse relationship between movement speed and task accuracy, is a ubiquitous feature of skilled motor performance. Many previous studies have focused on the dominant arm, unimanual performance in both simple tasks, such as target reaching, and complex tasks, such as overarm throwing. However, while handedness is a prominent feature of human motor performance, the effect of limb dominance on speed-accuracy relationships is not well-understood. Based on previous research, we hypothesize that dominant arm skilled performance should depend on visual information and prior task experience, and that the non-dominant arm should show greater skill when no visual information nor prior task information is available. Forty right-handed young adults reached to 32 randomly presented targets across a virtual reality workspace with either the left or the right arm. Half of the participants received no visual feedback about hand position throughout each reach. Sensory information and task experience were lowest during the first cycle of exposure (32 reaches) in the no-vision condition, in which visual information about motion was not available. Under this condition, we found that the left arm group showed greater skill, measured in terms of position error normalized to speed, and by error variability. However, as task experience and sensory information increased, the right arm group showed substantial improvements in speed-accuracy relations, while the left arm group maintained, but did not improve, speed-accuracy relations throughout the task. These differences in performance between dominant and non-dominant arm groups during the separate stages of the task are consistent with complimentary models of lateralization, which propose different proficiencies of each hemisphere for different features of control. Our results are incompatible with global dominance models of handedness that propose dominant arm advantages under all performance conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-665
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


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