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Sukhvinder S. Obhi, Patrick Haggard, John Taylor and Alvaro Pascual-Leone

Bimanual coordination tasks form an essential part of our behaviour. One brain region thought to be involved in bimanual coordination is the supplementary motor area (SMA). We used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) at 1 Hz for 5 min to create a temporary virtual lesion of the rostral portion of the human SMA immediately prior to performance of a goal-directed bimanual coordination task. In two control conditions, participants underwent sham stimulation or stimulation over the primary motor cortex (MI). The experimental task was to open a drawer with the left hand, catch a ball with the right hand, and reinsert the ball into the drawer through an aperture just big enough for the ball to pass through, again with the right hand. Hence, the actions of one hand depend upon the actions of the other. We calculated time intervals between the successive component actions of one hand (unimanual intervals) and actions of both hands (bimanual intervals) and analyzed these intervals separately. Interestingly, none of the unimanual intervals were affected by the rTMS, but the variability of a critical bimanual interval—the time between the left hand opening the drawer and the right hand starting to move to catch the ball—was increased by rTMS over the rostral parts of the SMA. No such effect was seen following rTMS over MI or after sham rTMS. Our results suggest that the rostral parts of the SMA play an important role in aspects of functional bimanual tasks, which involve tight temporal coordination between different motor actions of the two hands.

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Shannon D. Ringenbach, Romeo Chua, Brian K. V. Maraj, James C. Kao and Daniel J. Weeks

Previous experiments involving discrete unimanual tasks have shown that individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have auditory/verbal-motor deficits. The present study investigated unimanual and bimanual continuous perceptual-motor actions in adults with DS. Ten adults with DS, 10 typical adults, and 10 children drew continuous circles at increasing periods bimanually and unimanually with each hand. Movement was paced by either a visual or an auditory metronome. The results revealed that for circle shape and coordination measures, children and adults were more accurate with the visual metronome, whereas adults with DS were more accurate with the auditory metronome. In the unimanual tasks, adults with DS displayed hand asymmetries on spatial measures. In the bimanual task, however, adults with DS adopted an in-phase coordination pattern and stability more similar to adults than children. These results suggest that bimanual coordination in adults with DS is functioning effectively despite hand asymmetries evident in unimanual performance.

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Betteco J. de Boer, C. (Lieke) E. Peper and Peter J. Beek

Developmental changes in bimanual coordination were examined in four age groups: 6/7, 10/11, 14/15 years, and young adults. Temporal coupling was assessed through the stabilizing contributions of interlimb interactions related to planning, error correction, and reflexes during rhythmic wrist movements, by comparing various unimanual and bimanual tasks involving passive and active movements. Spatial coupling was assessed via bimanual line-circle drawing. With increasing age, temporal stability improved. Relative contributions of planning and reflex interactions to the achieved stability did not change, whereas error correction improved. In-phase and antiphase coordination developed at similar rates; implications of this result were discussed in terms of mirror-activity inhibition. Overall spatial drawing performance (circularity, variability, smoothness) improved with age, and spatial interference was smaller in adults than children. Whereas temporal coupling increased from 6/7 years to adulthood, spatial coupling changed mainly after 14/15 years. This difference in the development of temporal and spatial coupling corresponds to the anterior-posterior direction of corpus callosum myelination as reported in the literature.

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Sukhvinder S. Obhi

Using more than one limb to perform functional, goal-directed actions is arguably one of the most important abilities that human beings possess. In many everyday tasks, the hands, in particular, must be used to accomplish all manner of goals. From buttoning a shirt to opening a jam jar and driving to work, good bimanual coordination is of great utility. In addition to the tasks mentioned above, there are also other tasks involving the functional use of more than one limb, including walking or cycling and typing a report. With a little thought, it becomes apparent that there is at least one important difference between these categories of coordination tasks. On one hand, in some tasks the effectors must perform markedly different motor outputs that are bound together in some functionally defined and usually object-oriented manner (e.g., buttoning a shirt) yet, in others, the effectors produce very similar motor outputs but in a specific temporal order, which may or may not repeat itself periodically (e.g., walking and cycling compared to typing or drumming). In this short article, I will argue that the second category of coordination task and, in particular, cyclical coordination, has been studied extensively and, at least at the level of behavior, is relatively well understood. In contrast the former category of bimanual task is seldom studied and, even at the descriptive level, is rather poorly understood. One of the reasons for this may be the complexity of such tasks and the technical difficulties involved in attempting to study them. By highlighting some key studies, I hope to illustrate that such tasks can be fruitfully studied in the laboratory. Last, since the neural control processes underlying both classes of coordination task are not yet well known, I aim to draw attention to the potential value of the interventional technique of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as a tool for investigating the functions of brain regions contributing to bimanual coordination.

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Dana Maslovat, Shannon S.D. Bredin, Romeo Chua and Ian M. Franks

A major component of a dynamical paradigm involves a “scanning” procedure in an attempt to determine an individual’s intrinsic coordination tendencies before learning, as well as subsequent changes in the coordination landscape after practice. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate two methods of the scanning procedure. Scans were performed before and after 75 trials of a 90° bimanual-coordination pattern and were compared with early and late acquisition trials. Four groups of participants performed scanning and acquisition trials using a combination of either concurrent visual feedback in the form of Lissajous figures, paced by an auditory metronome, or visual metronomes in the form of flashing stimuli. Analyses revealed that all groups improved performance of the 90° pattern with practice. As predicted by the theory of practice specificity, scanning via the same method as acquisition appears to be valid. Scanning via Lissajous figures when the acquisition procedure was flashing squares was also found to be valid, but not the opposite condition. Reasons for this unidirectional transfer are given with these results suggesting that the sensitivity of a given scanning method might be influenced by the method of acquiring the coordination pattern.

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Eric G. James

The HKB model and its variants characterize bimanual coordination with fixedpoint dynamics and predict stationarity of the mean and variance of relative phase in stable coordinative states. In the current study, participants performed in-phase and antiphase coordination modes in rhythmic bimanual finger and elbow flexionextension tasks. The results of runs tests revealed that discrete relative phase was nonstationary in 49.25%, 50.25%, and 54% of time-series in the 10, 20, and 30 box runs tests, respectively. In all individual Task conditions >38% of time-series were nonstationary. These findings contradicted model predictions that the mean and variance of relative phase are stationary in bimanual coordination and distinguish the concept of dynamical stability from statistical stationarity. The findings indicated that relative phase was not attracted to a stationary fixed-point and that fluctuations in relative phase are not Gaussian white noise as in existing models of bimanual coordination.

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Eric James, Charles S. Layne and Karl M. Newell

Studies of bimanual coordination have typically estimated the stability of coordination patterns through the use of the circular standard deviation of relative phase. The interpretation of this statistic depends upon the assumption of a von Mises distribution. The present study tested this assumption by examining the distributional properties of relative phase in three bimanual coordination patterns. There were significant deviations from the von Mises distribution due to differences in the kurtosis of distributions. The kurtosis depended upon the relative phase pattern performed, with leptokurtic distributions occurring in the in-phase and antiphase patterns and platykurtic distributions occurring in the 30° pattern. Thus, the distributional assumptions needed to validly and reliably use the standard deviation are not necessarily present in relative phase data though they are qualitatively consistent with the landscape properties of the intrinsic dynamics.

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Reint H. Geuze

The functional integrity of the bimanual neuromotor system of Parkinson's disease (PD) subjects (stage II) compared to controls (2 × n = 16) was evaluated by measures of coordination stability of tapping in in-phase. anti-phase. and 90°-phase. Recently, intentional influence was modeled as an additive attractor function on the intrinsic dynamics, resulting in predictions tested by Scholz and Kelso (1990). In this study, the intentional influence was modulated by attaching cognitive meaning to the rhythmical pattern, which was expected to enhance the stability of coordination and, if effective, might be profitable to PD patients. Half of the PD subjects significantly lacked stability. They were less stable than controls, lost coordination at lower frequencies, and needed more time to switch between phase patterns. The reduction of stability was reflected in the progression of the disease. Cognitive meaning reduced variability of the single hands but not of relative phase, and no effect on switching time was found. The results suggest a weaker coupling strength between the limbs in PD patients lacking stability.

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Nicole Wenderoth and Otmar Bock

Learning of a new bimanual coordination pattern was investigated by practicing rhythmical arm movements with a required relative phase of ϕ = 90°. To quantify the learning process, we determined the mean and the standard deviation of the relative phase, and the switching lime from a well-established coordination pattern to the to-be-leamed pattern. We then calculated for each parameter the time constant of improvement. We found that with practice, all three parameter improved but each following a significantly different time-course. We therefore conclude that the learning of a new bimanual coordination pattern is governed by three separate processes, which can be visualized in a potential landscape of the intrinsic dynamics as distinct topographical features—namely, the location, depth, and steepness of the attractor basin.

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Oleg Kazennikov and Mario Wiesendanger

Music performance is based on demanding motor control with much practice from young age onward. We have chosen to investigate basic bimanual movements played by violin amateurs and professionals. We posed the question whether position and string changes, two frequent mechanisms, may influence the time interval bowing (right)-fingering (left) coordination. The objective was to measure bimanual coordination, i.e., with or without position changes and string changes. The tendency was that the bimanual coordination was statistically only slightly increased or even unchanged but not perceptible. We conclude that the coordination index is limited up to 100 ms intervals, without any erroneous perception. Although the mentioned position changes and string changes are movements with their timing, they are executed in parallel rather than in series with the bow-fingering coordination.