Neural activity in primary motor and dorsal premotor cortex in reaching tasks with the contralateral versus ipsilateral arm

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Feb;89(2):922-42. doi: 10.1152/jn.00607.2002.


To investigate the effector dependence of task-related neural activity in dorsal premotor (PMd) and primary motor cortex (M1), directional tuning functions were compared between instructed-delay reaching tasks performed separately with either the contralateral or the ipsilateral limb. During presentation of the instructional cue, the majority (55/90, 61%) of cells in PMd were tuned with both arms, and their dynamic range showed a trend for stronger discharge with the contralateral arm. Most strikingly, however, the preferred direction of most of these latter cells (41/55, 75%) was not significantly different between arms. During movement, many PMd cells continued to be tuned with both arms (53/90, 59%), with a trend for increasing directional differences between the arms over the course of the trial. In contrast, during presentation of the instructional cue only 5/74 (7%) cells in M1 were tuned with both arms. During movement, about half of M1 cells (41/74, 55%) were tuned with both arms but the preferred directions of their tuning functions were often very different and there was a strong bias toward greater discharge rates when the contralateral arm was used. Similar trends were observed for EMG activity. In conclusion, M1 is strongly activated during movements of the contralateral arm, but activity during ipsilateral arm movements is also common and usually different from that seen with the contralateral arm. In contrast, a major component of task-related activity in PMd represents movement in a more abstract or task-dependent and effector-independent manner, especially during the instructed-delay period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electromyography
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*