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Brain. 2016 Jan;139(Pt 1):127-43. doi: 10.1093/brain/awv312. Epub 2015 Oct 21.

Primary motor cortex of the parkinsonian monkey: altered encoding of active movement.

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1 Department of Neurobiology, Center for Neuroscience and The Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.
2 Department of Neurology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
1 Department of Neurobiology, Center for Neuroscience and The Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA


Abnormalities in the movement-related activation of the primary motor cortex (M1) are thought to be a major contributor to the motor signs of Parkinson's disease. The existing evidence, however, variably indicates that M1 is under-activated with movement, overactivated (due to a loss of functional specificity) or activated with abnormal timing. In addition, few models consider the possibility that distinct cortical neuron subtypes may be affected differently. Those gaps in knowledge were addressed by studying the extracellular activity of antidromically-identified lamina 5b pyramidal-tract type neurons (n = 153) and intratelencephalic-type corticostriatal neurons (n = 126) in the M1 of two monkeys as they performed a step-tracking arm movement task. We compared movement-related discharge before and after the induction of parkinsonism by administration of MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) and quantified the spike rate encoding of specific kinematic parameters of movement using a generalized linear model. The fraction of M1 neurons with movement-related activity declined following MPTP but only marginally. The strength of neuronal encoding of parameters of movement was reduced markedly (mean 29% reduction in the coefficients from the generalized linear model). This relative decoupling of M1 activity from kinematics was attributable to reductions in the coefficients that estimated the spike rate encoding of movement direction (-22%), speed (-40%), acceleration (-49%) and hand position (-33%). After controlling for MPTP-induced changes in motor performance, M1 activity related to movement itself was reduced markedly (mean 36% hypoactivation). This reduced activation was strong in pyramidal tract-type neurons (-50%) but essentially absent in corticostriatal neurons. The timing of M1 activation was also abnormal, with earlier onset times, prolonged response durations, and a 43% reduction in the prevalence of movement-related changes beginning in the 150-ms period that immediately preceded movement. Overall, the results are consistent with proposals that under-activation and abnormal timing of movement-related activity in M1 contribute to parkinsonian motor signs but are not consistent with the idea that a loss of functional specificity plays an important role. Given that pyramidal tract-type neurons form the primary efferent pathway that conveys motor commands to the spinal cord, the dysfunction of movement-related activity in pyramidal tract-type neurons is likely to be a central factor in the pathophysiology of parkinsonian motor signs.


GLM; MPTP; Parkinson’s disease; kinematics; loss of specificity; response latency

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