What determines coordination patterns when both hands reach to grasp separate objects at the same time? It is known that synchronous timing is preferred as the most stable mode of bimanual coordination. Nonetheless, normal unimanual prehension behaviour predicts asynchrony when the two hands reach towards unequal targets, with synchrony restricted to targets equal in size and distance. Additionally, sufficiently separated targets require sequential looking. Does synchrony occur in all cases because it is preferred in bimanual coordination or does asynchrony occur because of unimanual task constraints and the need for sequential looking? We investigated coordinative timing when participants (n = 8) moved their right (preferred) hand to the same object at a fixed distance but the left hand to objects of different width (3, 5, and 7 cm) and grip surface size (1, 2, and 3 cm) placed at different distances (20, 30, and 40 cm) over 270 randomised trials. The hand movements consisted of two components: (1) an initial component (IC) during which the hand reached towards the target while forming an appropriate grip aperture, stopping at (but not touching) the object; (2) a completion component (CC) during which the finger and thumb closed on the target. The two limbs started the IC together but did not interact until the deceleration phase when evidence of synchronisation began to appear. Nonetheless, asynchronous timing was present at the end of the IC and preserved through the CC even with equidistant targets. Thus, there was synchrony but requirements for visual information ultimately yielded asynchronous coordinative timing.
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We are grateful to Jennifer Leaper (Charles) and Silke Leifheit for conducting the control experiment and analysing the data. A grant to Mark Mon-Williams from Action Medical Research and Scottish Enterprise helped support this research work. The production of the manuscript was facilitated by an award from the Royal Society of Edinburgh/Lloyds TSB to Bingham and Mon-Williams.
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Bingham, G.P., Hughes, K. & Mon-Williams, M. The coordination patterns observed when two hands reach-to-grasp separate objects. Exp Brain Res 184, 283–293 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-007-1107-9