Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 6, pp 1789–1800 | Cite as

Neural motor control differs between bimanual common-goal vs. bimanual dual-goal tasks

  • Wan-wen Liao
  • Jill Whitall
  • Joseph E. Barton
  • Sandy McCombe Waller
Research Article


Coordinating bimanual movements is essential for everyday activities. Two common types of bimanual tasks are common goal, where two arms share a united goal, and dual goal, which involves independent goals for each arm. Here, we examine how the neural control mechanisms differ between these two types of bimanual tasks. Ten non-disabled individuals performed isometric force tasks of the elbow at 10% of their maximal voluntary force in both bimanual common and dual goals as well as unimanual conditions. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation, we concurrently examined the intracortical inhibitory modulation (short-interval intracortical inhibition, SICI) as well as the interlimb coordination strategies utilized between common- vs. dual-goal tasks. Results showed a reduction of SICI in both hemispheres during dual-goal compared to common-goal tasks (dominant hemisphere: P = 0.04, non-dominant hemisphere: P = 0.03) and unimanual tasks (dominant hemisphere: P = 0.001, non-dominant hemisphere: P = 0.001). For the common-goal task, a reduction of SICI was only seen in the dominant hemisphere compared to unimanual tasks (P = 0.03). Behaviorally, two interlimb coordination patterns were identified. For the common-goal task, both arms were organized into a cooperative “give and take” movement pattern. Control of the non-dominant arm affected stabilization of bimanual force (R2 = 0.74, P = 0.001). In contrast, for the dual-goal task, both arms were coupled together in a positive fashion and neither arm affected stabilization of bimanual force (R2 = 0.31, P = 0.1). The finding that intracortical inhibition and interlimb coordination patterns were different based on the goal conceptualization of bimanual tasks has implications for future research.


Bimanual coordination Task goal Short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) Interlimb force coordination Motor control 



We thank study participants who devoted their time and efforts in this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, School of MedicineUniversity of Maryland BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Department of Neurology, School of MedicineUniversity of Maryland BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA

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