Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 389–399 | Cite as

Cognitive-perceptual load modulates hand selection in left-handers to a greater extent than in right-handers

  • Jiali LiangEmail author
  • Krista M. Wilkinson
  • Robert L. Sainburg
Research Article


Previous studies have proposed that selecting which hand to use for a reaching task appears to be modulated by a factor described as “task difficulty,” defined by either the requirement for spatial precision or movement sequences. However, we previously reported that analysis of the movement costs associated with even simple movements plays a major role in hand selection. We further demonstrated, in right-handers, that cognitive-perceptual loading modulates hand selection by interfering with the analysis of such costs. It has been reported that left-handers tend to show less dominant hand bias in selecting which hand to use during reaching. We, therefore, hypothesized that hand selection would be less affected by cognitive-perceptual loading in left-handers than in right-handers. We employed a visual search task that presented different levels of difficulty (cognitive-perceptual load), as established in previous studies. Our findings indicate that left-handed participants tend to show greater modulation of hand selection by cognitive-perceptual loading than right-handers. Left-handers showed lower dominant hand reaction times than right-handers, and greater high-cost movements that reached to extremes of the contralateral workspace under the most difficult task conditions. We previously showed in this task that midline crossing has high-energy and time costs and that they occur more frequently under cognitively demanding conditions. The current study revealed that midline crossing was associated with the lowest reaction times, in both handedness groups. The fact that left-handers showed lower dominant hand reaction times, and a greater number of high-cost cross-midline reaches under the most cognitively demanding conditions suggests that these actions were erroneous.


Cognitive-perceptual load Hand selection Reaching Task difficulty Left-hander 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health [R01HD059783], and a Penn State SSRI Level 1 Award. The second author is co-funded by the Penn State SSRI. The authors thank Christine Regiec, Emily Neumann, and Tara O’Neill for their assistance throughout the development of this research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiali Liang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Krista M. Wilkinson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Robert L. Sainburg
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Communication Sciences and DisordersThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology and NeurologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.E. K. Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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