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Brain. 1998 Aug;121 ( Pt 8):1513-31.

Functional coupling and regional activation of human cortical motor areas during simple, internally paced and externally paced finger movements.

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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.


We studied the activation and interaction of cortical motor regions during simple, internally paced and externally paced right-hand finger extensions in healthy volunteers. We recorded EEGs from 28 scalp electrodes and analysed task-related coherence, task-related power and movement-related cortical potentials. Task-related coherence reflects inter-regional functional coupling of oscillatory neuronal activity, task-related power reflects regional oscillatory activity of neuronal assemblies and movement-related cortical potentials reflect summated potentials of apical dendrites of pyramidal cells. A combination of these three analytical techniques allows comprehensive evaluation of different aspects of information processing in neuronal assemblies. For both externally and internally paced finger extensions, movement-related regional activation was predominant over the contralateral premotor and primary sensorimotor cortex, and functional coupling occurred between the primary sensorimotor cortex of both hemispheres and between the primary sensorimotor cortex and the mesial premotor areas, probably including the supplementary motor area. The main difference between the different types of movement pacing was enhanced functional coupling of central motor areas during internally paced finger extensions, particularly inter-hemispherically between the left and right primary sensorimotor cortexes and between the contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex and the mesial premotor areas. Internally paced finger extensions were also associated with additional regional (premovement) activation over the mesial premotor areas. The maximal task-related coherence differences between internally and externally paced finger extensions occurred in the frequency range of 20-22 Hz rather than in the range of maximal task-related power differences (9-11 Hz). This suggests that important aspects of information processing in the human motor system could be based on network-like oscillatory cortical activity and might be modulated on at least two levels, which to some extent can operate independently from each other: (i) regional activation (task-related power) and (ii) inter-regional functional coupling. We propose that internal pacing of movement poses higher demands on the motor system than external pacing, and that the motor system responds not only by increasing regional activation of the mesial premotor system, including the supplementary motor area, but also by enhancing information flow between lateral and mesial premotor and sensorimotor areas of both hemispheres, even if the movements are simple and unimanual.

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