Shared right-hemispheric representations of sensorimotor goals in dynamic task environments

  • Ada Le
  • Francis Benjamin Wall
  • Gina Lin
  • Raghavan Arunthavarajah
  • Matthias NiemeierEmail author
Research Article


Functional behaviour affords that we form goals to integrate sensory information about the world around us with suitable motor actions, such as when we plan to grab an object with a hand. However, much research has tested grasping in static scenarios where goals are pursued with repetitive movements, whereas dynamic contexts require goals to be pursued even when changes in the environment require a change in the actions to attain them. To study grasp goals in dynamic environments here, we employed a task where the goal remained the same but the execution of the movement changed; we primed participants to grasp objects either with their right or left hand, and occasionally they had to switch to grasping with both. Switch costs should be minimal if grasp goal representations were used continuously, for example, within the left dominant hemisphere. But remapped or re-computed goal representations should delay movements. We found that switching from right-hand grasping to bimanual grasping delayed reaction times but switching from left-hand grasping to bimanual grasping did not. Further, control experiments showed that the lateralized switch costs were not caused by asymmetric inhibition between hemispheres or switches between usual and unusual tasks. Our results show that the left hemisphere does not serve a general role of sensorimotor grasp goal representation. Instead, sensorimotor grasp goals appear to be represented at intermediate levels of abstraction, downstream from cognitive task representations, yet upstream from the control of the grasping effectors.


Bimanual Coordination Grasp Goal representation Sensorimotor Switch costs Motor Representations 



We thank Timothy Welsh and Mark Schmuckler for their valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank Denise Henriques for lending us her Plato goggles. We also thank Moein Bayat-Mokhtari for his help with data collection. Last, we thank NSERC for funding this research.

Author contributions

A.L. and M.N. developed the study concept. All authors contributed to the study design. Data collection was performed by F.B.W., G.L., and R.A. Data analysis and interpretation were performed by A.L., under the supervision of M.N. A.L. drafted the paper, and all authors provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the paper for submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ada Le
    • 1
  • Francis Benjamin Wall
    • 1
  • Gina Lin
    • 1
  • Raghavan Arunthavarajah
    • 1
  • Matthias Niemeier
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada

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