Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 27–38 | Cite as

Bimanual coordination: constraints imposed by the relative timing of homologous muscle activation

  • Yong Li
  • Oron Levin
  • Richard G. Carson
  • Stephan P. Swinnen
Research Article


It has often been supposed that patterns of rhythmic bimanual coordination in which homologous muscles are engaged simultaneously, are performed in a more stable manner than those in which the same muscles are activated in an alternating fashion. In order to assess the efficacy of this constraint, the present study investigated the effect of forearm posture (prone or supine) on bimanual abduction-adduction movements of the wrist in isodirectional and non-isodirectional modes of coordination. Irrespective of forearm posture, non-isodirectional coordination was observed to be more stable than isodirectional coordination. In the latter condition, there was a more severe deterioration of coordination accuracy/stability as a function of cycling frequency than in the former condition. With elevations in cycling frequency, the performers recruited extra mechanical degrees of freedom, principally via flexion-extension of the wrist, which gave rise to increasing motion in the vertical plane. The increases in movement amplitude in the vertical plane were accompanied by decreasing amplitude in the horizontal plane. In agreement with previous studies, the present findings confirm that the relative timing of homologous muscle activation acts as a principal constraint upon the stability of interlimb coordination. Furthermore, it is argued that the use of manipulations of limb posture to investigate the role of other classes of constraint (e.g. perceptual) should be approached with caution because such manipulations affect the mapping between muscle activation patterns, movement dynamics and kinematics.


Hand posture Bimanual coordination Cycling frequency Constraints Symmetry principles Interlimb Visual perception 



Yong Li was supported by an IRO-scholarship of K.U. Leuven and Richard Carson by a visiting fellowship from the Research Fund of K.U. Leuven (F/01/081). Additional support for the present study was provided through a grant from the Research Council of K.U. Leuven (Contract No. OT/99/39) and the Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders (Project G.0285.98 & G.0460.04) awarded to S. Swinnen. Requests for reprints should be sent to S.P. Swinnen, Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, K.U. Leuven, Tervuursevest 101, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yong Li
    • 1
  • Oron Levin
    • 1
  • Richard G. Carson
    • 2
  • Stephan P. Swinnen
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Motor Control, Department of Kinesiology, FLOKKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  2. 2.Perception and Motor Systems Laboratory, School of Human Movement StudiesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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