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J Physiol. 1994 Oct 1;480 ( Pt 1):191-202.

Non-monosynaptic transmission of the cortical command for voluntary movement in man.

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Département de Rééducation Neurologique, Hôpital de la Salpétrière, Paris, France.


1. The possibility was investigated that, in man, some of the descending command for tonic voluntary wrist extension is transmitted to extensor motoneurones over a non-monosynaptic pathway. 2. Stimulation of the cutaneous superficial radial nerve at 3 times perceptual threshold depressed the electromyogram (EMG) of extensor carpi radialis (ECR) and the discharge of single ECR motor units, both with a mean central delay of 4.2 ms. Such stimuli depressed the response to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex, but had little effect on the H reflex. 3. The possibility that the relative sparing of the H reflex was due to an alteration in transmission of the afferent volley for the H reflex was excluded. 4. The central latency of the cutaneous-induced depression of the discharge of single motor units in biceps brachii (C5-C6) was shorter by about 1 ms than that of the more caudal wrist and finger extensor motor units. This suggests that the locus for the cutaneous-induced effects was spinal but above the cervical enlargement. 5. The pattern of EMG depression (evoked by superficial radial but not palmar stimuli, in wrist extensors but not wrist flexors) is that previously described for the presumed propriospinal system of human subjects. 6. It is concluded that a significant component of the voluntary command for tonic wrist extension reaches the relevant motoneurone pool via a non-monosynaptic pathway. It is suggested that the interposed neurones could be C3-C4 propriospinal neurones.

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