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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Jun;81(6):3065-77.

Mesial motor areas in self-initiated versus externally triggered movements examined with fMRI: effect of movement type and rate.

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  • 1Human Motor Control Section, Medical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1428, USA.


The human frontomesial cortex reportedly contains at least four cortical areas that are involved in motor control: the anterior supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), the posterior SMA (SMA proper, or SMA), and, in the anterior cingulate cortex, the rostral cingulate zone (RCZ) and the caudal cingulate zone (CCZ). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the role of each of these mesial motor areas in self-initiated and visually triggered movements. Healthy subjects performed self-initiated movements of the right fingers (self-initiated task, SI). Each movement elicited a visual signal that was recorded. The recorded sequence of visual signals was played back, and the subjects moved the right fingers in response to each signal (visually triggered task, VT). There were two types of movements: repetitive (FIXED) or sequential (SEQUENCE), performed at two different rates: SLOW or FAST. The four regions of interest (pre-SMA, SMA, RCZ, CCZ) were traced on a high-resolution MRI of each subject's brain. Descriptive analysis, consisting of individual assessment of significant activation, revealed a bilateral activation in the four mesial structures for all movement conditions, but SI movements were more efficient than VT movements. The more complex and more rapid the movements, the smaller the difference in activation efficiency between the SI and the VT tasks, which indicated an additional processing role of the mesial motor areas involving both the type and rate of movements. Quantitative analysis was performed on the spatial extent of the area activated and the percentage of change in signal amplitude. In the pre-SMA, activation was more extensive for SI than for VT movements, and for fast than for slow movements; the extent of activation was larger in the ipsilateral pre-SMA. In the SMA, the difference was not significant in the extent and magnitude of activation between SI and VT movements, but activation was more extensive for sequential than for fixed movements. In the RCZ and CCZ, both the extent and magnitude of activation were larger for SI than for VT movements. In the CCZ, both indices of activation were also larger for sequential than for fixed movements, and for fast than for slow movements. These data suggest functional specificities of the frontomesial motor areas with respect not only to the mode of movement initiation (self-initiated or externally triggered) but also to the movement type and rate.

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