Modular organization of finger movements by the human central nervous system

Neuron. 2006 Nov 22;52(4):731-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.09.038.


The motor system may generate automated movements, such as walking, by combining modular spinal motor synergies. However, it remains unknown whether a modular neuronal architecture is sufficient to generate the unique flexibility of human finger movements, which rely on cortical structures. Here we show that finger movements evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the primary motor cortex reproduced distinctive features of the spatial representation of voluntary movements as identified in previous neuroimaging studies, consistent with naturalistic activation of neuronal elements. Principal component analysis revealed that the dimensionality of TMS-evoked movements was low. Principal components extracted from TMS-induced finger movements resembled those derived from end-postures of voluntary movements performed to grasp imagined objects, and a small subset of them was sufficient to reconstruct these movements with remarkable fidelity. The motor system may coordinate even the most dexterous movements by using a modular architecture involving cortical components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Volition / physiology