Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 211, Issue 2, pp 299–312

Multi-frequency arm cycling reveals bilateral locomotor coupling to increase movement symmetry

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00221-011-2687-y

Cite this article as:
Vasudevan, E.V.L. & Zehr, E.P. Exp Brain Res (2011) 211: 299. doi:10.1007/s00221-011-2687-y


Upright stance has allowed for substantial flexibility in how the upper limbs interact with each other: the arms can be coordinated in alternating, synchronous, or asymmetric patterns. While synchronization is thought to be the default mode of coordination during bimanual movement, there is little evidence for any bilateral coupling during locomotor-like arm cycling movements. Multi-frequency tasks have been used to reveal bilateral coupling during bimanual movements, thus here we used a multi-frequency task to determine whether the arms are coupled during arm cycling. It was hypothesized that bilateral coupling would be revealed as changes in background EMG and cutaneous reflexes when temporal coordination was altered. Twelve subjects performed arm cycling at 1 and 2 Hz with one arm while the contralateral arm was either at rest, cycling at the same frequency, or cycling at a different frequency (i.e., multi-frequency cycling with one arm at 1 Hz and the other at 2 Hz). To evoke reflexes, the superficial radial nerve was stimulated at the wrist. EMG was collected continuously from muscles of both arms. Results showed that background EMG in the lower frequency arm was amplified while reflex amplitudes were unaltered during multi-frequency cycling. We propose that neural coupling between the arms aids in equalizing muscle activity during asymmetric tasks to permit stable movement. Conversely, such interactions between the arms would likely be unnecessary in determining a reflexive response to a perturbation of one arm. Therefore, bilateral coupling was expressed when it was relevant to symmetry.


Interlimb coordination Central pattern generators Locomotion Arms Bilateral coupling Cutaneous reflexes 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Motor Learning LaboratoryMoss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Albert Einstein Healthcare NetworkElkins ParkUSA
  2. 2.Rehabilitation Neuroscience LaboratoryUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Biomedical ResearchUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  4. 4.Human Discovery ScienceInternational Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD)VancouverCanada