Left hemisphere specialization for the control of voluntary movement rate

Neuroimage. 2004 May;22(1):289-303. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.12.038.


Although persuasive behavioral evidence demonstrates the superior dexterity of the right hand in most people under a variety of conditions, little is known about the neural mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon. As this lateralized superiority is most evident during the performance of repetitive, speeded movement, we used parametric rate variations to compare visually paced movement of the right and left hands. Twelve strongly right-handed subjects participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment involving variable rate thumb movements. For movements of the right hand, contralateral rate-related activity changes were identified in the precentral gyrus, thalamus, and posterior putamen. For left-hand movements, activity was seen only in the contralateral precentral gyrus, consistent with the existence of a rate-sensitive motor control subsystem involving the left, but not the right, medial premotor corticostriatal loop in right-handed individuals. We hypothesize that the right hemisphere system is less skilled at controlling variable-rate movements and becomes maximally engaged at a lower movement rate without further modulation. These findings demonstrate that right- and left-hand movements engage different neural systems to control movement, even during a relatively simple thumb flexion task. Specialization of the left hemisphere corticostriatal system for dexterity is reflected in asymmetric mechanisms for movement rate control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rest / physiology
  • Thumb / innervation
  • Thumb / physiology


  • Oxygen