Continuous theta-burst stimulation to primary motor cortex reveals asymmetric compensation for sensory attenuation in bimanual repetitive force production
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Studies of fingertip force production have shown that self-produced forces are perceived as weaker than externally generated forces. This is due to mechanisms of sensory reafference where the comparison between predicted and actual sensory feedback results in attenuated perceptions of self-generated forces. Without an external reference to calibrate attenuated performance judgments, a compensatory overproduction of force is exhibited. It remains unclear whether the force overproduction seen in the absence of visual reference stimuli differs when forces are produced bimanually. We studied performance of two versions of a bimanual sequential force production task compared with each hand performing the task unimanually. When the task goal was shared, force series produced by each hand in bimanual conditions were found to be uncorrelated. When the bimanual task required each hand to reach a target force level, we found asymmetries in the degree of force overproduction between the hands following visual feedback removal. Unilateral continuous theta-burst stimulation of the left primary motor cortex yielded a selective reduction of force overproduction in the hand contralateral to stimulation by disrupting sensory reafference processes. While variability was lower in bimanual trials when the task goal was shared, this influence of hand condition disappeared when the target force level was to be reached by each hand simultaneously. Our findings strengthen the notion that force control in bimanual action is less tightly coupled than other mechanisms of bimanual motor control and show that this effector specificity may be extended to the processing and compensation for mechanisms of sensory reafference.
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