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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1988 Apr;66(4):455-63.

The representation of arm movements in postcentral and parietal cortex.

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Département de physiologie, Faculté de médecine, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Considerable experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that the neocortical processes underlying kinesthetic sensation form a hierarchical series of cells signalling increasingly complex patterns of movement of the body. However, this view has been criticized and the data lack quantitative verification under controlled conditions. These studies have also typically used one-dimensional (reciprocal) movements, even of multiple degree-of-freedom joints such as the wrist or shoulder, and have been restricted to passive movements. This latter limitation is particularly critical, since the response of many muscle receptors is affected by fusimotor activity while that of many articular receptors is sensitive to the level of muscle contractile activity. Both factors introduce significant kinesthetic ambiguity to the signals arising from these receptors during active movement. This ambiguity is evident in the discharge of primary somatosensory cortex proprioceptive cells. Studies in area 5 show that single cells signal shoulder joint movements in the form of broad directional tuning curves. The pattern of activity of the entire population encodes movement direction. The cells appear to encode spatial aspects of movement unambiguously, since their discharge is relatively insensitive to the changes in muscle activity required to produce the same movements under different load conditions. It is not yet certain whether the somesthetic activity in area 5 is a kinesthetic representation that is sequential to and hierarchically superior to that in SI, or whether it is a parallel representation with separate and distinct function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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