Subdivisions of primary motor cortex based on cortico-motoneuronal cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 20;106(3):918-23. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808362106. Epub 2009 Jan 12.


We used retrograde transneuronal transport of rabies virus from single muscles of rhesus monkeys to identify cortico-motoneuronal (CM) cells in the primary motor cortex (M1) that make monosynaptic connections with motoneurons innervating shoulder, elbow, and finger muscles. We found that M1 has 2 subdivisions. A rostral region lacks CM cells and represents an "old" M1 that is the standard for many mammals. The descending commands mediated by corticospinal efferents from old M1 must use the integrative mechanisms of the spinal cord to generate motoneuron activity and motor output. In contrast, a caudal region of M1 contains shoulder, elbow, and finger CM cells. This region represents a "new" M1 that is present only in some higher primates and humans. The direct access to motoneurons afforded by CM cells enables the newly recognized M1 to bypass spinal cord mechanisms and sculpt novel patterns of motor output that are essential for highly skilled movements.

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

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motor Cortex / cytology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Motor Skills
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Rabies virus / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology