Perceptual basis of bimanual coordination

Franz Mechsner, Dirk Kerzel, Giinther Knoblich, Wolfgang Prinz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

488 Citations (Scopus)


Periodic bimanual movements are often the focus of studies of the basic organizational principles of human actions1±25. In such movements there is a typical spontaneous tendency towards mirror symmetry. Even involuntary slips from asymmetrical movement patterns into symmetry occur, but not vice versa. Traditionally, this phenomenon has been interpreted as a tendency towards co-activation of homologous muscles, probably originating in motoric neuronal structures. Here we provide evidence contrary to this widespread assumption. We show for two prominent experimental models – bimanual four-finger oscillation and bimanual four-finger tapping – that the symmetry bias is actually towards spatial, perceptual symmetry, without regard to the muscles involved. We suggest that spontaneous coordination phenomena of this kind are purely perceptual in nature. In the case of a bimanual circling model, our findings reveal that highly complex, even `impossible' movements can easily be performed with only simple visual feedback. A `motoric' representation of the performed perceptual oscillation patterns is not necessary. Thus there is no need to translate such a `motoric' into a `perceptual' representation or vice versa, using `internal models' (ref. 29). We suggest that voluntary movements are organized by way of a representation of the perceptual goals, whereas the corresponding motor activity, of sometimes high complexity, is spontaneously and flexibly tuned in.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-73
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001


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