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Neuroreport. 2009 May 6;20(7):679-83. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32832a1820.

Participation of primary motor cortex area 4a in complex sensory processing: 3.0-T fMRI study.

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  • 1Center for Integrated Human Brain Science, Brain Research Institute, University of Niigata, Niigata, Japan.


The precise movement of human fingers requires continuous and reciprocal interaction between motor and sensory systems. Similar to other primates, there is double representation of the digits and wrists within the human primary motor cortex (M1), which are generally referred to as area 4 anterior (M1-4a) and area 4 posterior (M1-4p). In this high-field (3.0 T) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we hypothesized that M1-4p is more important for initiation of motion, whereas M1-4a is important for execution of a given motion involving more complex sensoriomotor interaction. We investigated M1-4a and M1-4p activation associated with two representative motor tasks, namely, finger tapping (voluntary motion, VM) and passive finger movement accomplished by continuous pressure (passive motor, PM), and two representative sensory stimulations, namely, simple stimulation of flutter vibration (simple sensory, SS), and complex stimulation by a row of pins moving either vertically or horizontally (complex sensory, CS). Both M1-4a and M1-4p were activated in both motor tasks, VM and PM. M1-4p was not activated by either of the two sensory tasks, whereas M1-4a was activated by CS but not by SS. Analysis of the center of gravities (COG) of the activated areas showed that VM and PM moved COG towards M1-4p and 3a. SS moved COG towards somatosensory cortex Brodmann areas 1, 2, and 3b, whereas CS towards M1-4a. The result clearly showed that M1-4a represents the area of secondary motor execution, which actively participates in CS processing.

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