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Open Access Research

Mirror versus parallel bimanual reaching

Farnaz Abdollahi12, Robert V Kenyon12 and James L Patton12*

Author Affiliations

1 Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Sensory Motor Performance Program (SMPP), Suite: 1406, 345 E. Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

2 University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10:71  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-10-71

Published: 9 July 2013



In spite of their importance to everyday function, tasks that require both hands to work together such as lifting and carrying large objects have not been well studied and the full potential of how new technology might facilitate recovery remains unknown.


To help identify the best modes for self-teleoperated bimanual training, we used an advanced haptic/graphic environment to compare several modes of practice. In a 2-by-2 study, we compared mirror vs. parallel reaching movements, and also compared veridical display to one that transforms the right hand’s cursor to the opposite side, reducing the area that the visual system has to monitor. Twenty healthy, right-handed subjects (5 in each group) practiced 200 movements. We hypothesized that parallel reaching movements would be the best performing, and attending to one visual area would reduce the task difficulty.


The two-way comparison revealed that mirror movement times took an average 1.24 s longer to complete than parallel. Surprisingly, subjects’ movement times moving to one target (attending to one visual area) also took an average of 1.66 s longer than subjects moving to two targets. For both hands, there was also a significant interaction effect, revealing the lowest errors for parallel movements moving to two targets (p < 0.001). This was the only group that began and maintained low errors throughout training.


Combined with other evidence, these results suggest that the most intuitive reaching performance can be observed with parallel movements with a veridical display (moving to two separate targets). These results point to the expected levels of challenge for these bimanual training modes, which could be used to advise therapy choices in self-neurorehabilitation.

Bimanual training; Bimanual coordination; Self-telerehabilitation; Upper limb