Learned dynamics of reaching movements generalize from dominant to nondominant arm

Sarah E. Criscimagna-Hemminger, Opher Donchin, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations


Accurate performance of reaching movements depends on adaptable neural circuitry that learns to predict forces and compensate for limb dynamics. In earlier experiments, we quantified generalization from training at one arm position to another position. The generalization patterns suggested that neural elements learning to predict forces coded a limb's state in an intrinsic, muscle-like coordinate system. Here, we test the sensitivity of these elements to the other arm by quantifying inter-arm generalization. We considered two possible coordinate systems: an intrinsic (joint) representation should generalize with mirror symmetry reflecting the joint's symmetry and an extrinsic representation should preserve the task's structure in extrinsic coordinates. Both coordinate systems of generalization were compared with a naïve control group. We tested transfer in right-handed subjects both from dominant to nondominant arm (D→ND) and vice versa (ND→D). This led to a 2 × 3 experimental design matrix: transfer direction (D→ND/ND→D) by coordinate system (extrinsic, intrinsic, control). Generalization occurred only from dominant to nondominant arm and only in extrinsic coordinates. To assess the dependence of generalization on callosal inter-hemispheric communication, we tested commissurotomy patient JW. JW showed generalization from dominant to nondominant arm in extrinsic coordinates. The results suggest that when the dominant right arm is used in learning dynamics, the information could be represented in the left hemisphere with neural elements tuned to both the right arm and the left arm. In contrast, learning with the nondominant arm seems to rely on the elements in the nondominant hemisphere tuned only to movements of that arm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-176
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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