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J Neurophysiol. 1997 May;77(5):2446-65.

Effects on muscle activity from microstimuli applied to somatosensory and motor cortex during voluntary movement in the monkey.

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Department of Physiology and Smith Mental Retardation and Human Development Research Center, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City 66160, USA.


It is well known that electrical stimulation of primary somatosensory cortex (SI) evokes movements that resemble those evoked from primary motor cortex. These findings have led to the concept that SI may possess motor capabilities paralleling those of motor cortex and speculation that SI could function as a robust relay mediating motor responses from central and peripheral inputs. The purpose of this study was to rigorously examine the motor output capabilities of SI areas with the use of the techniques of spike- and stimulus-triggered averaging of electromyographic (EMG) activity in awake monkeys. Unit recordings were obtained from primary motor cortex and SI areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2 in three rhesus monkeys. Spike-triggered averaging was used to assess the output linkage between individual cells and motoneurons of the recorded muscles. Cells in motor cortex producing postspike facilitation (PSpF) in spike-triggered averages of rectified EMG activity were designated corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells. Motor output efficacy was also assessed by applying stimuli through the microelectrode and computing stimulus-triggered averages of rectified EMG activity. One hundred seventy-one sites in motor cortex and 68 sites in SI were characterized functionally and tested for motor output effects on muscle activity. The incidence, character, and magnitude of motor output effects from SI areas were in sharp contrast to effects from CM cell sites in primary motor cortex. Of 68 SI cells tested with spike-triggered averaging, only one area 3a cell produced significant PSpF in spike-triggered averages of EMG activity. In comparison, 20 of 171 (12%) motor cortex cells tested produced significant postspike effects. Single-pulse intracortical microstimulation produced effects at all CM cell sites in motor cortex but at only 14% of SI sites. The large fraction of SI effects that was inhibitory represented yet another marked difference between CM cell sites in motor cortex and SI sites (25% vs 93%). The fact that motor output effects from SI were frequently absent or very weak and predominantly inhibitory emphasizes the differing motor capabilities of SI compared with primary motor cortex.

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