The relative effects of external spatial and motoric factors on the bimanual coordination of discrete movements
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The ability to coordinate the two hands effectively is a fundamental requirement for many everyday tasks. To investigate how bimanual coordination is achieved we asked subjects to perform discrete bimanual key-press responses under conditions in which the motoric (i.e., muscles employed) and external spatial (i.e., direction of movement in external space) relationships between the actions of the left and right index fingers were systematically varied. Subjects made simultaneous right and left index finger key-presses in response to an auditory tone. The right finger always made downward flexion movements whilst the left finger either flexed in a downward/upward direction, or extended in a downward/upward direction. Unimanual control trials of each movement type for both hands were also performed. Reaction times for each hand (RTs) and the inter-response interval (IRI) were recorded. Right hand RTs were significantly affected only when the left finger performed motorically different actions, but were unaffected by the external spatial direction in which the left hand's actions were made. The IRI results followed a similar pattern with the worst coordination (highest IRI) occurring when the left finger performed different motor actions to the right finger regardless of the direction of the left hand movement. In contrast to other recent results from experiments examining oscillatory tasks (e.g., Mechsner et al. 2001), our results suggest that in discrete tasks there is a dominance of the motor relationship between the hands over the external spatial relationship.
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