Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Compared to unimanual task execution, simultaneous bimanual tapping tasks are associated with a significantly reduced intertap variability. It has been suggested that this bimanual advantage is based on the integration of timing signals which otherwise control each hand independently. Although its functional and anatomic foundations are poorly understood, functional coupling between cerebellar hemispheres might be behind this process. Because the execution of fast alternating fingertaps increases intertap variability, it is hypothesized that intercerebellar coupling is reduced in such tasks. To shed light on the functional significance of intercerebellar coupling, 14 right-handed subjects performed unimanual right, bimanual simultaneous, and bimanual alternating synchronization tasks with respect to a regular auditory pacing signal. In all conditions, within-hand intertap interval was 500 msec. Continuous neuromagnetic activity, using a 122-channel wholehead neuromagnetometer and surface electromyograms of the first dorsal interosseus muscle of both hands, were recorded. For data analysis, we used the analysis tool Dynamic Imaging of Coherent Sources, which provides a tomographic map of cerebromuscular and cerebrocerebral coherence. Analysis revealed a bilateral cerebello-thalamo-cortical network oscillating at alpha (8–12 Hz) and beta (13–24 Hz) frequencies associated with bimanual synchronization. In line with our hypothesis, coupling between cerebellar hemispheres was restricted to simultaneous task execution. This result implies that intercerebellar coupling is key for the execution of simultaneous bimanual movements. Although the criticality of a specific magneto-encephalography pattern for behavioral changes should be interpreted with caution, data suggest that intercerebellar coupling possibly represents the functional foundation of the bimanual advantage.