Reach-to-grasp actions are fundamental to the daily activities of human life, but few methods exist to assess individuals’ reaching and grasping actions in unconstrained environments. The Block Building Task (BBT) provides an opportunity to directly observe and quantify these actions, including left/right hand choices. Here we sought to investigate the motor and non-motor causes of left/right hand choices, and optimize the design of the BBT, by manipulating motor and non-motor difficulty in the BBT’s unconstrained reach-to-grasp task. We hypothesized that greater motor and non-motor (e.g. cognitive/perceptual) difficulty would drive increased usage of the dominant hand. To test this hypothesis, we modulated block size (large vs. small) to influence motor difficulty, and model complexity (10 vs. 5 blocks per model) to influence non-motor difficulty, in healthy adults (n = 57). Our data revealed that increased motor and non-motor difficulty led to lower task performance (slower task speed), but participants only increased use of their dominant hand only under the most difficult combination of conditions: in other words, participants allowed their performance to degrade before changing hand choices, even though participants were instructed only to optimize performance. These results demonstrate that hand choices during reach-to grasp actions are more stable than motor performance in healthy right-handed adults, but tasks with multifaceted difficulties can drive individuals to rely more on their dominant hand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1359
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • (4 to6): hand choice
  • Block-building task
  • Reaching and grasping
  • Task difficulty


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