Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 220, Issue 1, pp 11–22 | Cite as

The cost of moving with the left hand

  • Jonathan Vaughan
  • Deborah A. Barany
  • Tristan Rios
Research Article


Precise left-hand movements take longer than right-hand movements (for right-handers). To quantify how left-hand movements are affected by task difficulty and phase of movement control, we manipulated the difficulty of repetitive speeded aiming movements while participants used the left or right hand. We observed left-hand costs in both initial impulse and current control phases of movement. While left-hand cost during the initial impulse phase was small, left-hand cost during the current control phase varied from 10 to 60 ms, in direct proportion to the movement’s difficulty as quantified by Fitts’ law (0.77 < R2 < 0.99, across three experiments). In particular, in comparison with a difficult task for the right hand (Fitts’ IDR = 6.6), the left hand’s task would have to be made easier by 0.5 bits (IDL = 6.1) to be performed as quickly. The left-hand cost may reflect the time required for callosal transfer of information between the left and right hemispheres during the current control phase of precision left-hand movements or reflect movement control differences in the current control phase of movement that are inherent to the hemispheres. Overall, the present results support multiphase models of movement generation, in which separate specialized processes contribute to the launching and completion of precision hand movements.


Laterality Movement time Left hand Fitts’ law Corpus callosum Hemispheric dominance Reaction time 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Vaughan
    • 1
  • Deborah A. Barany
    • 1
  • Tristan Rios
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHamilton CollegeClintonUSA

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