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Neuroimage. 2004 Aug;22(4):1480-91.

Hand movement distribution in the motor cortex: the influence of a concurrent task and motor imagery.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of La Laguna, Spain. mdiaz@ull.es


The aim of this work was to study the relevance of the primary motor cortex (M1) for motor functions different to the simple execution of motor orders. The M1 activity during the performance with individual fingers of a simple motor task (tonic flexion), a motor task that includes a complex motor computation but not motor execution (motor imagery), and a motor task that involves both the computation and execution of movements (phasic movement) was evaluated by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The possible influence of other cortical tasks on the M1 activation induced by finger movements was assessed by evaluating the effect of a distracting concurrent task (numeric calculation). Data show that both the dimension of the area activated and the intensity of response were higher during motor planning than during motor execution. There is a mosaic-like distribution for motor-planning M1 functions, with the movement of individual fingers being controlled from several M1 loci. The concurrent mental-task induces a rapid functional reconfiguration of M1, adding M1 subsets to motor programming but excluding others. Present data support the involvement of the M1 in more than just simple motor execution, showing broader and more intense modifications during motor tasks not accompanied by movements (motor imagery) than during the execution of simple motor acts (tonic flexion).

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