Limb dominance results from asymmetries in predictive and impedance control mechanisms

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 2;9(4):e93892. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093892. eCollection 2014.


Handedness is a pronounced feature of human motor behavior, yet the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. We hypothesize that motor lateralization results from asymmetries in predictive control of task dynamics and in control of limb impedance. To test this hypothesis, we present an experiment with two different force field environments, a field with a predictable magnitude that varies with the square of velocity, and a field with a less predictable magnitude that varies linearly with velocity. These fields were designed to be compatible with controllers that are specialized in predicting limb and task dynamics, and modulating position and velocity dependent impedance, respectively. Because the velocity square field does not change the form of the equations of motion for the reaching arm, we reasoned that a forward dynamic-type controller should perform well in this field, while control of linear damping and stiffness terms should be less effective. In contrast, the unpredictable linear field should be most compatible with impedance control, but incompatible with predictive dynamics control. We measured steady state final position accuracy and 3 trajectory features during exposure to these fields: Mean squared jerk, Straightness, and Movement time. Our results confirmed that each arm made straighter, smoother, and quicker movements in its compatible field. Both arms showed similar final position accuracies, which were achieved using more extensive corrective sub-movements when either arm performed in its incompatible field. Finally, each arm showed limited adaptation to its incompatible field. Analysis of the dependence of trajectory errors on field magnitude suggested that dominant arm adaptation occurred by prediction of the mean field, thus exploiting predictive mechanisms for adaptation to the unpredictable field. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that motor lateralization reflects asymmetries in specific motor control mechanisms associated with predictive control of limb and task dynamics, and modulation of limb impedance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult