Dominant vs. nondominant arm advantage in mentally simulated actions in right handers

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Dec;110(12):2887-94. doi: 10.1152/jn.00123.2013. Epub 2013 Oct 2.


Although plentiful data are available regarding mental states involving the dominant-right arm, the evidence for the nondominant-left arm is sparse. Here, we investigated whether right-handers can generate accurate predictions with either the right or the left arm. Fifteen adults carried out actual and mental arm movements in two directions with varying inertial resistance (inertial anisotropy phenomenon). We recorded actual and mental movement times and used the degree of their similarity as an indicator for the accuracy of motor imagery/prediction process. We found timing correspondences (isochrony) between actual and mental right arm movements in both rightward (low inertia resistance) and leftward (high inertia resistance) directions. Timing similarities between actual and mental left arm movements existed for the leftward direction (low inertia resistance) but not for the rightward direction (high inertia resistance). We found similar results when participants reaching towards the midline of the workspace, a result that excludes a hemispace effect. Electromyographic analysis during mental movements showed that arm muscles remained inactivate, thus eliminating a muscle activation strategy that could explain intermanual differences. Furthermore, motor-evoked potentials enhancement in both right and left biceps brachii during mental actions indicated that subjects were actively engaged in mental movement simulation and that the disadvantage of the left arm cannot be attributed to the nonactivation of the right motor cortex. Our findings suggest that predictive mechanisms are more robust for the right than the left arm in right-handers. We discussed these findings from the perspective of the internal models theory and the dynamic-dominance hypothesis of laterality.

Keywords: arm movement; handedness; humans; motor imagery; movement time.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance