Relative phase destabilization during interlimb coordination: the disruptive role of kinesthetic afferences induced by passive movement

S. P. Swinnen, N. Dounskaia, S. Verschueren, D. J. Serrien, A. Daelman

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99 Scopus citations


The disruption of three patterns of two-limb coordination, involving cyclical flexion-extension movements performed in the same or in different directions, was investigated through application of passive movement to a third limb by the experimenter. The three patterns referred to the homologous, homolateral, and heterolateral (diagonal) limb combinations which were performed in the sagittal plane. The passive movement involved a spatiotemporal trajectory that differed from the movements controlled actively. Even though subjects were instructed to completely ignore the passive limb movement, the findings of experiment 1 demonstrated a moderate to severe destabilization of the two-limb patterns, as revealed by analyses of power spectra, relative phase, cycle duration, and amplitude. This disruption was more pronounced in the homolateral and heterolateral than in the homologous effector combinations, suggesting stronger coupling between homologous than nonhomologous limb pairs. Moreover, passive mobilization affected antiphase (nonisodirectional) movements more than inphase (isodirectional) movements, pointing to the differential stability of these patterns. Experiment 2 focused on homolateral coordination and demonstrated that withdrawal of visual information did not alter the effects induced by passive movement. It was therefore hypothesized that the generation of extra kinesthetic afferences through passive limb motion was primarily responsible for the detriment in interlimb coordination, possibly conflicting with the sensory information accompanying active movement production. In addition, it was demonstrated that the active limbs were more affected by their homologous passive counterpart than by their non-homologous counterpart, favoring the notion of "specific" interference. The findings are discussed in view of the potential role of kinesthetic afferences in human interlimb coordination, more specifically the preservance of relative phasing through a kinesthetic feedback loop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-454
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Human
  • Interlimb coordination
  • Kinesthetic afferences
  • Passive movement
  • Relative phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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