Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 163, Issue 4, pp 515–526 | Cite as

Interactions between interlimb and intralimb coordination during the performance of bimanual multijoint movements

  • Yong Li
  • Oron Levin
  • Arturo Forner-Cordero
  • Stephan P. Swinnen
Research Article


The simultaneous performance of movements involving different effectors gives rise to neural and biomechanical interactions between and within limbs. The present study addressed the role of interlimb and intralimb constraints during the control of bimanual multijoint movements. Thirteen participants performed eight tasks involving the bilateral elbows and wrists under different coordination conditions. With respect to interlimb coordination, coordination patterns referred to the in-phase and anti-phase coordination modes, involving the simultaneous timing of homologous versus non-homologous muscles, respectively. With respect to inter-segmental (intralimb) coordination, the isodirectional mode referred to simultaneous flexions and extensions in the ipsilateral wrist and elbow joints, whereas the non-isodirectional mode involved simultaneous flexion in one joint together with extension in the other joint, or vice versa. The analysis of the data focused upon measures of relative phasing between proximal and distal joints within a limb as well as between the homologous joints of both limbs. With respect to interlimb coordination, findings revealed that adoption of the in-phase mode resulted in a higher quality of interlimb coordination than the anti-phase mode. However, the mode adopted in the distal joints had a larger impact on the quality of interlimb coordination than the mode adopted in the proximal joints. More specifically, in-phase coordination of the distal joints had a positive, and anti-phase coordination a negative, influence on the global coordinative behavior of the system. Minor effects of intralimb coordination modes on interlimb coordination were observed. With respect to intralimb coordination between the ipsilateral elbow and wrist, the isodirectional mode was performed with higher stability than the non-isodirectional mode. The mode of interlimb coordination also affected the quality of intralimb coordination, such that generating anti-phase coordination patterns in the distal joints had a negative influence on the accuracy and stability of intralimb coordination. Taken together, the present findings suggest a hierarchical structure whereby interlimb coordination constraints have a stronger impact on the global coordinative behavior of the system than intralimb coordination constraints. Moreover, the global coordinative state of the system is more affected by the coordination between the distal than between the proximal joints. Overall, the findings suggest that the mirror-image symmetry constraint has a powerful influence on bimanual multijoint coordination.


Multijoint Bimanual coordination Constraints Homology Directionality Interlimb Intralimb 



Support for the present study was provided through a grant from the Research Council of K.U. Leuven, Belgium (Contract No. OT/03/61) and the Research Programme of the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen #G.0460.04).


  1. Batschelet E (1965) Statistical methods for the analysis of problems in animal orientation and certain biological rhythms. American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernstein N (1967) The co-ordination and regulation of movements. Pergamon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Byblow WD, Carson RG, Goodman D (1994) Expressions of asymmetries and anchoring in bimanual coordination. Hum Movement Sci 13:3–28Google Scholar
  4. Byblow WD, Summers JJ, Semjen A, Wuyts IJ, Carson RG (1999) Spontaneous and intentional pattern switching in a multisegmental bimanual coordination task. Motor Control 3(4):372–393Google Scholar
  5. Cardoso de Oliveira S, Gribova A, Donchin O, Bergman H, Vaadia E (2001) Neural interactions between motor cortical hemispheres during bimanual and unimanual arm movements. Eur J Neurosci 14:1881–1896Google Scholar
  6. Carson RG, Thomas J, Summers JJ, Walters MR, Semjen A (1997) The dynamics of bimanual circle drawing. Q J Exp Psychol A 50(3):664–683Google Scholar
  7. Donchin O, Gribova A, Steinberg O, Bergman H, Cardoso de Oliveira S Vaadia E (2001) Local field potentials related to bimanual movements in the primary and supplementary motor cortices. Exp Brain Res 140:46–55CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dounskaia N, Stelmach GE (2001) Movement planning and movement execution: What is in between? Behav Brain Sci 24(1):41Google Scholar
  9. Dounskaia NV, Swinnen SP, Walter CB, Spaepen AJ, Verschueren SM (1998) Hierarchical control of different elbow-wrist coordination patterns. Exp Brain Res 121(3):239–254Google Scholar
  10. Dounskaia NV, Ketcham CJ, Stelmach GE (2002) Influence of biomechanical constraints on horizontal arm movements. Motor Control 6(4):366–387Google Scholar
  11. Gerloff C, Andres FG (2002) Bimanual coordination and interhemispheric interaction. Acta Psychol 110:161–186Google Scholar
  12. Gribble PL, Ostry DJ (1999) Compensation for interaction torques during single- and multijoint limb movement. J Neurophysiol 82(5):2310–2326PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hollerbach MJ, Flash T (1982) Dynamic interactions between limb segments during planar arm movement. Biol Cybern 44(1):67–77PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Kelso JAS (1984) Phase transitions and critical behavior in human bimanual coordination. Am J Physiol 240:R1000-R1004Google Scholar
  15. Kelso JA, Jeka JJ (1992) Symmetry breaking dynamics of human multilimb coordination. J Exp Psychol Human 18(3):645–668Google Scholar
  16. Kelso JA, Buchanan JJ, Wallace SA (1991) Order parameters for the neural organization of single, multijoint limb movement patterns. Exp Brain Res 85(2):432–444Google Scholar
  17. Lee TD, Swinnen SP, Verschueren S (1995) Relative phase alterations during bimanual skill acquisition. J Motor Behav 27:263–274Google Scholar
  18. Lee TD, Almeida QJ, Chua R (2002) Spatial constraints in bimanual coordination: influences of effector orientation. Exp Brain Res 146:205–212CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Levin O, Ouamer M, Steyvers M, Swinnen SP (2001) Directional tuning effects during cyclical two-joint arm movements in the horizontal plane. Exp Brain Res 141(4):471–484Google Scholar
  20. Mardia KV (1972) Statistics of directional data. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Mechsner F, Kerzel D, Knoblich G, Prinz W (2001) Perceptual basis of bimanual coordination. Nature 414:69–73CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Oldfield RC (1971) The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia 9:97–113CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Park H, Collins DR, Turvey MT (2001) Dissociation of muscular and spatial constraints on patterns of interlimb coordination. J Exp Psychol Human 27:32–47Google Scholar
  24. Putnam CA (1991) A segment interaction analysis of proximal-to-distal sequential segment motion patterns. Med Sci Sport Exer 23(1):130–144Google Scholar
  25. Sainburg RL (2002) Evidence for a dynamic-dominance hypothesis of handedness. Exp Brain Res 142:241–258CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Sainburg RL, Kalakanis D (2000) Differences in control of limb dynamics during dominant and nondominant arm reaching. J Neurophysiol 83(5):2661–75Google Scholar
  27. Semjen A, Summers JJ, Cattaert D (1995) Hand coordination in bimanual circle drawing. J Exp Psychol Human 21:1139–1157Google Scholar
  28. Stucchi N, Viviani P (1993) Cerebral dominance and asynchrony between bimanual two-dimensional movements. J Exp Psychol Human 19:1200–1220Google Scholar
  29. Swinnen SP (2002) Intermanual coordination: from behavioural principles to neural-network interactions. Nat Rev Neurosci 3:350–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Swinnen SP, Wenderoth N (2004) Two hands, one brain: cognitive neuroscience of bimanual skill. Trends Cogn Sci 8:18–25CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Swinnen SP, Jardin K, Meulenbroek R, Dounskaia N, Hofkens-Van Den Brandt M (1997) Egocentric and directional constraints in the expression of patterns of interlimb coordination. J Cognitive Neurosci 9:348–377Google Scholar
  32. Swinnen SP, Jardin K, Verschueren S, Meulenbroek R, Franz L, Dounskaia N, Walter CB (1998) Exploring interlimb constraints during bimanual graphic performance: effects of muscle grouping and direction. Behav Brain Res 90:79–87CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Virji-Babul N, Cooke JD (1995) Influence of joint interactional effects on the coordination of planar two-joint arm movements. Exp Brain Res 103(3):451–459Google Scholar
  34. Wagemans J (1997) Characteristics and models of human symmetry detection. Trends Cogn Sci 1:346–352Google Scholar
  35. Zajac FE, Gordon ME (1989) Determining muscle’s force and action in multi-articular movement. Exercise Sport Sci R 17:187–230Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yong Li
    • 1
  • Oron Levin
    • 1
  • Arturo Forner-Cordero
    • 1
  • Stephan P. Swinnen
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Motor Control, Department of KinesiologyKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations