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Exp Brain Res. 1990;82(2):337-50.

Neurons related to reaching-grasping arm movements in the rostral part of area 6 (area 6a beta).

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Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Università di Parma, Italy.


Single neurons were recorded from the rostral part of the agranular frontal cortex (area 6a beta) in awake, partially restrained macaque monkeys. In the medialmost and mesial sectors of this area, rostral to the supplementary motor area, neurons were found which were activated during arm reaching-grasping movements. These neurons ("reaching-grasping neurons") did not appear to be influenced by how the objects were grasped nor, with some exceptions, by where they were located. Their activity changed largely prior to the arm movement and continued until the end of it. The premovement modulation (excitatory or inhibitory) could start with stimulus presentation, with the saccade triggered by the stimulus or after stimulus fixation. The distance of the stimulus from the monkey was an important variable for activating many neurons. About half of the recorded neurons showed a modulation of the same sign during movement and premovement period. The other half showed an increase/decrease in activity which was of the opposite sign during movement and premovement period or part of it. In this last case the discharge changes were of the same sign when the stimulus was close to the monkey and when the monkey moved its arm to reach the objects, whereas they were of opposite sign when the stimulus was outside the animal's reach. Microstimulation of area 6a beta and the reconstruction of the locations of eye movement and arm movement related cells showed that the arm field was located more medially (and mesially) than the eye field described by Schlag and Schlag-Rey (1987). It is suggested that, unlike inferior area 6, which is mostly involved in selection of effectors on the basis of the physical properties of the objects and their spatial location (Rizzolatti and Gentilucci 1988), area 6a beta plays a role in the preparation of reaching-grasping arm movements and in their release when the appropriate conditions are set.

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