Role of corticospinal suppression during motor preparation

Cereb Cortex. 2009 Sep;19(9):2013-24. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn230. Epub 2009 Jan 6.


Behavior arises from a constant competition between potential actions. For example, movements performed unimanually require selecting one hand rather than the other. Corticospinal (CS) excitability of the nonselected hand is typically decreased prior to movement initiation, suggesting that response selection may involve mechanisms that inhibit nonselected candidate movements. To examine this hypothesis, participants performed a reaction time task, responding with the left, right, or both indexes. Transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied over the right primary motor cortex (M1) to induce motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) in a left hand muscle at various stages during response preparation. To vary the time of response selection, an imperative signal was preceded by a preparatory cue that was either informative or uninformative. Left MEPs decreased following the cue. Surprisingly, this decrease was greater when an informative cue indicated that the response might require the left hand than when it indicated a right hand response. In the uninformative condition, we did not observe additional attenuation of left MEP after an imperative indicating a right hand response. These results argue against the "deselection" hypothesis. Rather, CS suppression seems to arise from "impulse control" mechanisms that ensure that responses associated with potentially selected actions are not initiated prematurely.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Intuition / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*