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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Sep;94(3):2139-49. Epub 2005 May 31.

Effects of interlimb and intralimb constraints on bimanual shoulder-elbow and shoulder-wrist coordination patterns.

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Laboratory of Motor Control, Department of Kinesiology, Faculteit Bewegings- en Revalidatiewetenschappen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Tervuursevest 101, B-3001 Heverlee, Belgium.


The present study addressed the interactions between interlimb and intralimb constraints during the control of bimanual multi-joint movements. Participants performed eight coordination tasks involving bilateral shoulder-elbow (expt I) and shoulder-wrist (expt II) movements. Three principal findings were obtained. First, the principle of muscle homology (in-phase coordination), giving rise to mirror symmetrical movements with respect to the midsagittal plane, had a powerful influence on the quality of interlimb coordination. In both experiments, the accuracy and stability of inter- and/or intralimb coordination deteriorated as soon as the antiphase mode was introduced in one or both joint pairs. However, the mutual influences between bilateral distal and proximal joint pairs varied across coordination tasks and effectors. Second, the impact of intralimb coordination modes on the quality of intralimb coordination was inconsistent between adjacent (expt I) and non-adjacent joint (expt II) combinations. Third, the mode of interlimb coordination affected the quality of intralimb coordination, whereas strong support for the converse effect was not obtained. Taken together, these observations point to a hierarchical control structure whereby interlimb coordination constraints have a stronger impact on the global coordination of the system than intralimb constraints, whose impact is substantially dependent on effector and task. The finding that intralimb coordination is subordinate to interlimb coordination during the production of bimanual multi-joint coordination patterns indicates that symmetry is a major organizational principle in the neural control of complex movement.

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