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Exp Brain Res. 1999 Apr;125(3):323-34.

Handedness-related asymmetry in transmission in a system of human cervical premotoneurones.

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Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie Clinique, Rééducation, Hôpital de la Salpétrière, Paris, France.


The possibility was investigated that human handedness is associated with an asymmetrical cortical and/or peripheral control of the cervical premotoneurones (PreMNs) that have been shown to mediate part of the descending command to motoneurones of forearm muscles. Heteronymous facilitation evoked in the ongoing voluntary extensor carpi radialis (ECR) electromyographic activity (EMG) by weak (0.8 times motor threshold) stimulation of the musculo-cutaneous (MC) nerve was assessed during tonic co-contraction of biceps and ECR. Suppression evoked by stimulation of a cutaneous nerve (superficial radial, SR) at 4 times perception threshold in both the voluntary EMG and in the motor evoked potential (MEP) elicited in ECR by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was investigated during isolated ECR contraction. Measurements were performed within time windows or at interstimulus intervals where peripheral and cortical inputs may interact at the level of PreMNs. Results obtained on both sides were compared in consistent right- and left-handers. MC-induced facilitation of the voluntary ECR EMG was significantly larger on the preferred side, whereas there was no asymmetry in the SR-evoked depression of the ongoing ECR EMG. In addition, the suppression of the ECR MEP by the same SR stimulation was more pronounced on the dominant side during unilateral, but not during bilateral, ECR contraction. It is argued that (1) asymmetry in MC-induced facilitation of the voluntary EMG reflects a greater efficiency of the peripheral heteronymous volley in facilitating PreMNs on the dominant side; (2) asymmetry in SR-induced suppression of the MEP during unilateral ECR contraction, which is not paralleled by a similar asymmetry of voluntary EMG suppression, reflects a higher excitability of cortical neurones controlling inhibitory spinal pathways to cervical PreMNs on the preferred side.

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