The complementary dominance hypothesis: a model for remediating the ‘good’ hand in stroke survivors

Nick M. Kitchen, Brooke Dexheimer, Jisung Yuk, Candice Maenza, Paul R. Ruelos, Taewon Kim, Robert L. Sainburg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The complementary dominance hypothesis is a novel model of motor lateralization substantiated by decades of research examining interlimb differences in the control of upper extremity movements in neurotypical adults and hemisphere-specific motor deficits in stroke survivors. In contrast to earlier ideas that attribute handedness to the specialization of one hemisphere, our model proposes complementary motor control specializations in each hemisphere. The dominant hemisphere mediates optimal control of limb dynamics as required for smooth and efficient movements, whereas the non-dominant hemisphere mediates impedance control, important for countering unexpected mechanical conditions and achieving steady-state limb positions. Importantly, this model proposes that each hemisphere contributes its specialization to both arms (though with greater influence from either arm's contralateral hemisphere) and thus predicts that lesions to one hemisphere should produce hemisphere-specific motor deficits in not only the contralesional arm, but also the ipsilesional arm of stroke survivors – a powerful prediction now supported by a growing body of evidence. Such ipsilesional arm motor deficits vary with contralesional arm impairment, and thus individuals with little to no functional use of the contralesional arm experience both the greatest impairments in the ipsilesional arm, as well as the greatest reliance on it to serve as the main or sole manipulator for activities of daily living. Accordingly, we have proposed and tested a novel intervention that reduces hemisphere-specific ipsilesional arm deficits and thereby improves functional independence in stroke survivors with severe contralesional impairment. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Physiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology

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