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What is the Difference between Bilateral Integration, and Bilateral Coordination?

Bilateral integration and bilateral coordination are related but distinct concepts in motor skills and neurological function. Both involve the use of both sides of the body, but they emphasise different aspects of this capability.


Bilateral Integration


Bilateral integration refers to the ability of the brain to process and integrate information from both sides of the body and coordinate them to work together harmoniously. This involves the communication and synchronisation between the left and right hemispheres of the brain (as these control the right and left side of the body respectively).


  1. Crossing the Midline: The ability to move a limb across the central axis of the body. For example, reaching across the body to pick up an object. We also do this visually when reading and visually scanning our environment across the horizontal axis.

  2. Simultaneous Use: Involves using both sides of the body simultaneously in activities, such as typing or playing a musical instrument.

  3. Differentiated Use: Each side of the body performing different tasks that complement each other, such as holding a piece of paper with one hand while cutting with the other.

Examples include activities like reaching across the body to grab an object, tying shoelaces, or alternating hand movements in a complex pattern (like playing a piano).


Bilateral Coordination


Bilateral coordination refers to the ability to use both sides of the body in a controlled and coordinated manner to perform movements. It involves the precise and timely activation of muscles on both sides of the body.


  1. Symmetrical Movements: Both sides of the body performing the same action at the same time, such as clapping hands or jumping with both feet.

  2. Asymmetrical Movements: Each side of the body performing a different but complementary action, such as riding a bicycle (one leg pushing down while the other pulls up).

  3. Sequencing: The ability to perform a sequence of movements that require coordination between both sides of the body, such as alternating arms and legs while walking or running.


Examples include tasks such as jumping rope, catching a ball with both hands, or swimming, where both sides of the body need to work together in a coordinated way.


Key Differences Between Bilateral Integration and Bilateral Coordination


Focus:

  • Bilateral Integration: Focuses on the neurological and cognitive process of integrating sensory and motor information from both sides of the body. It is about the brain’s ability to coordinate both hemispheres for activities that require the involvement of both sides.

  • Bilateral Coordination: Focuses on the physical execution and control of movements that involve both sides of the body. It is about the actual motor performance and the ability to perform movements in a coordinated manner.


Developmental Importance:

  • Bilateral Integration: Crucial for developing complex motor skills and activities that require the simultaneous or sequential use of both sides of the body. It lays the foundation for more advanced motor and cognitive skills.

  • Bilateral Coordination: Important for developing the ability to perform physical activities smoothly and efficiently. It is essential for activities that require precise timing and muscle control, both in everyday tasks and athletic pursuits.


Essentially, whilst both bilateral integration and bilateral coordination involve the use of both sides of the body, bilateral integration is more about the brain’s ability to integrate and process information from both hemispheres, leading to coordinated actions. Bilateral coordination is more specifically about the physical ability to execute movements involving both sides of the body in a controlled and harmonious manner.


Both are critical for overall motor development and are often addressed in physical and occupational therapy to enhance functional abilities and improve motor skills.

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