Asymmetry of inter-limb transfer has been associated with the specialization of the dominant and non-dominant motor system. Reductions of asymmetry have been interpreted as behavioural evidence showing a decline of hemispheric lateralization. A previous study showed that ageing did not qualitatively change the inter-limb transfer asymmetry of a visuo-motor task. The current study elaborates on these findings; it examines whether diminished somatosensory information as a result of peripheral neuropathy (PN) adversely affects inter-limb transfer asymmetry. Twenty individuals affected by PN and 20 older controls were recruited and divided equally across two groups. One group trained a visuo-motor task with the right hand while the other group trained it with the left hand. Performance (initial direction error) of the untrained hand before and after training was collected to determine learning effects from inter-limb transfer. Similar to previous studies, the current study showed asymmetric inter-limb transfer in older controls. In contrast, PN showed inter-limb transfer in both directions indicating that PN reduces inter-limb transfer asymmetry. Increased bilateral hemispheric recruitment is suggested to be responsible for this reduced asymmetry which may compensate for deteriorated tactile and/or proprioceptive inputs in PN. Two possible hypotheses are discussed explaining the relationship between declined somatosensory information and increases in bilateral hemispheric recruitment.
Keywords: Inter-limb transfer; hemisphere lateralization; peripheral neuropathy; visuo-motor task.