Rhythmic movements occur in many aspects of daily life. Examples include clapping the hands and walking. The production of two independent rhythms with multiple limbs is considered to be extremely difficult. In the present study we evaluated whether two different, independent rhythms that involved finger tapping and walking could be produced. In Experiment I, twenty subjects that had no experience of musical instrument training performed rhythmic finger tapping with the right index finger and one of four different lower limb movements; (1) self-paced walking, (2) given-paced walking, (3) alternative bilateral heel tapping from a sitting position, and (4) unilateral heel tapping with the leg ipsilateral to the tapping finger from a sitting position. The target intervals of finger tapping and heel strikes for walking step/heel tapping were set at 375 ms and 600 ms, respectively. The even distribution of relative phases between instantaneous finger tapping and heel strike was taken as the criteria of independency for the two rhythms. In the self-paced walking and given-paced walking tasks, 16 out of 20 subjects successfully performed finger tapping and walking with independent rhythms without any special practice. On the other hand, in the bipedal heels striking and unipedal heel striking tasks 19 subjects failed to perform the two movements independently, falling into interrelated rhythms with the ratio mostly being 2:1. In Experiment II, a similar independency of finger tapping and walking at a given pace was observed for heel strike intervals of 400, 600, and 800 ms, as well as at the constant 375 ms for finger tapping. These results suggest that finger tapping and walking are controlled by separate neural control mechanisms, presumably with a supra-spinal locus for finger tapping, and a spinal location for walking.
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