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J Neurophysiol. 1996 May;75(5):1826-42.

Corticomotoneuronal contribution to the fractionation of muscle activity during precision grip in the monkey.

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Sobell Department of Neurophysiology, Institute of Neurology, London, United Kingdom.


1. During independent finger movements, the intrinsic muscles of the hand show a fractionated pattern of activity in which the timing and amplitude of electromyographic (EMG) activity varies considerably from one muscle to another. It has been suggested that, in the macaque monkey, corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells that produce postspike facilitation (PSF) of EMG in these muscles contribute to this fractionation. To test this hypothesis, we have investigated the relationship between the pattern of PSF exerted by a CM cell and the pattern of activity shown by the cell and by its target muscles. 2. The activity of 15 identified CM cells was recorded from two monkeys that performed a precision grip task. Spike-triggered averaging of rectified EMG during the hold period of this task showed that each cell produced PSF in at least two intrinsic hand muscles. 3. Segments of data were selected from the initial movement period of the task in which the EMG activity in one target muscle was substantially greater than that of the other, and the mean firing rate of each CM cell was determined for these periods. 4. CM cells showed bursts of activity in the movement period. Most of them (13/15) had a significantly (P < 0.001) higher firing rate when one of its target muscles was more active than the other. For nine of these cells (identified as set A), this muscle was the one receiving the larger PSF. In four cases (set B), the reverse was true. Two cells (set C), which produced PSF of equal size in their target muscles, showed no change in firing rate across the periods of fractionated EMG activity. 5. All set A and set B cells fired at significantly (P < 0.001) higher rates during the movement period, in association with fractionation of EMG activity, than in the hold period, in which a cocontracted pattern of muscle activity was observed. 6. There were pronounced differences in the strength of PSF exerted by the CM cells on their target muscles during the fractionation periods. One CM cell exerted PSF of a muscle during one period of fractionation, but postspike suppression of the same muscle during the other period. 7. It is suggested that changes in the firing rate of a CM cell and in the degree of facilitation it exerts could both contribute to the fractionation of activity in its target muscles. Cells of set A appear to be specifically recruited in a manner that directly reflects the pattern of facilitation they exert on the sampled target muscles. These results may explain why the CM system is so important for the performance of relatively independent finger movements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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