Bimanual versus unimanual coordination: what makes the difference?

Neuroimage. 2004 Jul;22(3):1336-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.03.012.


Using fMRI, we investigated the neuronal structures controlling bimanual coordination applying a visuomotor coordination task. Recent studies suggest the existence of a widespread network for the neuronal control of bimanual coordination including primary sensorimotor cortices (M1/S1), lateral and medial premotor cortices (PMC, SMA), cingulate motor area (CMA), and cerebellum (CB). In the present study, subjects performed bimanual and unimanual tasks requiring the coordination of two fingers at a time to navigate a cursor on a computer screen. Thus, in contrast to previous studies, we are using appropriate unimanual control (UNI) tasks. By using this new motor task, we identified a similar activation network for uni- and bimanual movements. Subjects exhibited bilateral activations in PMC, SMA, posterior-parietal cortex (PPC), occipital, and inferiotemporal cortex, as well as in the contralateral M1/S1 and ipsilateral CB. We did not find any additional activation when comparing bimanual with unimanual conditions. The lack of significant activation in the comparison "bimanual > unimanual" gives reason to suggest that this network is not limited to the control of bimanual motor actions, but responsible for unimanually coordinated movements as well. Interestingly, we found stronger activations for unimanual as compared to bimanual coordination. We hypothesize that task difficulty (degrees of freedom to control, e.g., number of limbs) is more important in determining which network components are activated and to what extent, compared to the factor of bimanuality. It even seemed to be less demanding for the motor system to control the cursor bimanually compared to the unimanual performance with two adjacent fingers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Computers
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis