Augmented visual feedback can have a profound bearing on the stability of bimanual coordination. Indeed, this has been used to render tractable the study of patterns of coordination that cannot otherwise be produced in a stable fashion. In previous investigations (Carson et al. 1999), we have shown that rhythmic movements, brought about by the contraction of muscles on one side of the body, lead to phase-locked changes in the excitability of homologous motor pathways of the opposite limb. The present study was conducted to assess whether these changes are influenced by the presence of visual feedback of the moving limb. Eight participants performed rhythmic flexion-extension movements of the left wrist to the beat of a metronome (1.5 Hz). In 50% of trials, visual feedback of wrist displacement was provided in relation to a target amplitude, defined by the mean movement amplitude generated during the immediately preceding no feedback trial. Motor potentials (MEPs) were evoked in the quiescent muscles of the right limb by magnetic stimulation of the left motor cortex. Consistent with our previous observations, MEP amplitudes were modulated during the movement cycle of the opposite limb. The extent of this modulation was, however, smaller in the presence of visual feedback of the moving limb (FCR omega(2) =0.41; ECR omega(2)=0.29) than in trials in which there was no visual feedback (FCR omega(2)=0.51; ECR omega(2)=0.48). In addition, the relationship between the level of FCR activation and the excitability of the homologous corticospinal pathway of the opposite limb was sensitive to the vision condition; the degree of correlation between the two variables was larger when there was no visual feedback of the moving limb. The results of the present study support the view that increases in the stability of bimanual coordination brought about by augmented feedback may be mediated by changes in the crossed modulation of excitability in homologous motor pathways.
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