Laterally focused attention modulates asymmetric coupling in rhythmic interlimb coordination
Poel, Harjo de
Peper, C. (Lieke)
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Peters (J Motor Behav 21:151–155, 1989; Interlimb coordination: neural, dynamical and cognitive constraints, Academic, Orlando, pp 595–615, 1994) suggested that expressions of handedness in bimanual coordination may be reflections of an inherent attentional bias. Indeed, previous results indicated that focusing attention on one of the limbs affected the relative phasing between the limbs in a manner comparable to the effects of hand dominance. The present study extended the comparison between the effects of attentional focus and handedness by testing their impact on the interactions between the limbs. Both left-handed and right-handed participants performed rhythmic bimanual coordination tasks (in-phase and antiphase coordination), while directing attention to either limb. Using brief mechanical perturbations, the degree to which the limbs were influenced by each other was determined. The results revealed that the non-dominant limb was more strongly affected by the dominant limb than vice versa and that, in line with Peters’ proposition, this handedness-related asymmetry in coupling strength was reduced when attention was focused on the non-dominant limb, thereby highlighting the potential relation between inherent (handedness-related) asymmetries and voluntary attentional asymmetries. In contrast to previous findings, the (commonly observed) phase lead of the dominant limb was attenuated (rather than accrued) when attention was focused on this limb. This unexpected result was explained in terms of the observed attention-related difference in amplitude between the limbs.