Functional coupling of human cortical sensorimotor areas during bimanual skill acquisition

Brain. 1999 May;122 ( Pt 5):855-70. doi: 10.1093/brain/122.5.855.


Bimanual co-ordination of skilled finger movements is a high-level capability of the human motor system and virtually always requires training. Little is known about the physiological processes underlying successful bimanual performance and skill acquisition. In the present study, we used task-related coherence (TRCoh) and task-related power (TRPow) analysis of multichannel surface EEG to investigate the functional coupling and regional activation of human sensorimotor regions during bimanual skill acquisition. We focused on changes in interhemispheric coupling associated with bimanual learning. TRCoh and TRPow were estimated during the fusion of two overlearned unimanual finger-tapping sequences into one novel bimanual sequence, before and after a 30-min training period in 18 normal volunteers. Control experiments included learning and repetition of complex and simple unimanual finger sequences. The main finding was a significant increase in interhemispheric TRCoh selectively in the early learning stage (P < 0.0001). Interhemispheric TRCoh was also present during the unimanual control tasks, but with lower magnitude, even if learning was involved. Training improved bimanual sequence performance (from 58.3+/-24.1 to 83.7+/-15.3% correct sequences). After training, interhemispheric (bimanual) TRCoh decreased again, thereby approaching levels similar to those in the unimanual controls. We propose that the initial increase in TRCoh reflects changes in interhemispheric communication that are specifically related to bimanual learning and may be relayed through the corpus callosum. The present data might also offer a neurophysiological explanation for the clinical observation that patients with lesions of the corpus callosum may show deficits in the acquisition of novel bimanual tasks but not necessarily in the execution of previously learned bimanual activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*