Structural and functional differences are known to exist within the cortical sensorimotor networks with respect to the dominant vs. non-dominant hand. Similarly, the cerebellum, a key structure in the sensorimotor network with its cerebello-cortical connections, has been reported to respond differently when using the dominant vs. non-dominant hand. Several groups have already investigated causal interactions during diverse motor paradigms using effective connectivity but few have studied the larger visuomotor network, including key structures such as the parietal cortex and the cerebellum, with both hands. Moreover, the effect of force level on such interactions is still unclear. We therefore sought to determine the hemispheric asymmetries in the cerebello-cortical sensorimotor network in right-handers at two force levels (5% and 10% maximum voluntary contraction) for both hands. Cerebello-cortical modulations were investigated in 28 healthy, right-handed volunteers by determining the effective connectivity during a visuomotor task at two force levels under fMRI. A network was built consisting of the left and right primary motor (M1), ventral premotor (PMv) and posterior parietal cortices (PPC), in addition to the supplementary motor area (SMA), and the ipsilateral cerebellum (Cer) to the hand performing the motor task. Task performance (precision of isometric grip force tracking) did not differ between hands, nor did task-related activations in the sensorimotor areas apart from the contralateral primary motor cortex. However, during visuomotor control of the non-dominant hand, connectivity analysis revealed causal modulations between (i) the ipsilateral cerebellum and SMA, and (ii) the ipsilatearl cerebellum and contralateral PPC, which was not the case when using the dominant hand. These cerebello-cortical modulations for the non-dominant hand were more present at the higher of the two force levels. We conclude that precision force generation executed with the non-dominant hand, compared to the dominant hand, may require enhanced cerebello-cortical interaction to ensure equivalent left-right task performance.
Keywords: cerebellum; dynamic causal modeling; fMRI; handedness; visuomotor.