Network activation during bimanual movements in humans

R. R. Walsh, S. L. Small, E. E. Chen, A. Solodkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The coordination of movement between the upper limbs is a function highly distributed across the animal kingdom. How the central nervous system generates such bilateral, synchronous movements, and how this differs from the generation of unilateral movements, remain uncertain. Electrophysiologic and functional imaging studies support that the activity of many brain regions during bimanual and unimanual movement is quite similar. Thus, the same brain regions (and indeed the same neurons) respond similarly during unimanual and bimanual movements as measured by electrophysiological responses. How then are different motor behaviors generated? To address this question, we studied unimanual and bimanual movements using fMRI and constructed networks of activation using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Our results suggest that (1) the dominant hemisphere appears to initiate activity responsible for bimanual movement; (2) activation during bimanual movement does not reflect the sum of right and left unimanual activation; (3) production of unimanual movement involves a network that is distinct from, and not a mirror of, the network for contralateral unimanual movement; and (4) using SEM, it is possible to obtain robust group networks representative of a population and to identify individual networks which can be used to detect subtle differences both between subjects as well as within a single subject over time. In summary, these results highlight a differential role for the dominant and non-dominant hemispheres during bimanual movements, further elaborating the concept of handedness and dominance. This knowledge increases our understanding of cortical motor physiology in health and after neurological damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-553
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 15 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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