Handedness: dominant arm advantages in control of limb dynamics

J Neurophysiol. 2002 Nov;88(5):2408-21. doi: 10.1152/jn.00901.2001.


Recent findings from our laboratory suggest that a major factor distinguishing dominant from nondominant arm performance is the ability by which the effects of intersegmental dynamics are controlled by the CNS. These studies indicated that the dominant arm reliably used more torque-efficient patterns for movements made with similar speeds and accuracy than nondominant arm movements. Whereas, nondominant hand-path curvatures systematically varied with the amplitude of the interaction torques transferred between the segments of the moving limb, dominant hand-path curvatures did not. However, our previous studies did not distinguish whether dominant arm coordination advantages emerged from more effective control of dynamic factors or were simply a secondary effect of planning different kinematics. The purpose of this study was to further investigate interlimb differences in coordination through analysis of inverse dynamics and electromyography recorded during the performance of reaching movements. By controlling the amplitude of intersegmental dynamics in the current study, we were able to assess whether systematic differences in torque-efficiency exist, even when differences in hand-path shape were minimal. Subject's arms were supported in the horizontal plane by a frictionless air-jet system and were constrained to movements about the shoulder and elbow joints. Two targets were designed, such that the interaction torques elicited at the elbow were either large or small. Our results showed that the former produced large differences in hand-path curvature, whereas the latter did not. Additionally, the movements with small differences in hand-path kinematics showed substantial differences in torque patterns and corresponding EMG profiles which implied a more torque-efficient strategy for the dominant arm. In view of these findings we propose that distinct neural control mechanisms are employed for dominant and nondominant arm movements.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Joint / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology