To further our understanding of the corticospinal projection (CSP) from the hand/arm representation of the primary motor cortex (M1), high-resolution anterograde tracing methodology and stereology were used to investigate the terminal distribution of this connection at spinal levels C5 to T1. The highest number of labeled terminal boutons occurred contralaterally (98%) with few ipsilaterally (2%). Contralaterally, labeled boutons were located within laminae I-X, with the densest distribution found in lamina VII and, to a lesser extent, laminae IX and VI. Fewer terminals were found in other contralateral laminae. Within lamina VII, terminal boutons were most prominent in the dorsomedial, dorsolateral, and ventrolateral subsectors. Within lamina IX, the heaviest terminal labeling was distributed dorsally. Ipsilaterally, boutons were found in laminae V-X. The most pronounced distribution occurred in the dorsomedial and ventromedial sectors of lamina VII and fewer labeled boutons were located in other ipsilateral laminae. Segmentally, contralateral lamina VII labeling was highest at levels C5-C7. In contrast, lamina IX labeling was highest at C7-T1 and more widely dispersed among the quadrants at C8-T1. Our findings suggest dominant contralateral influence of the M1 hand/arm CSP, a contralateral innervation pattern in lamina VII supporting Kuypers (1982) conceptual framework of a "lateral motor system," and a projection to lamina IX indicating significant influence on motoneurons innervating flexors acting on the shoulder and elbow rostrally (C5-C7), along with flexors, extensors, abductors and adductors acting on the digits, hand and wrist caudally (C8-T1).
Keywords: cerebral cortex; frontal lobe; hand movement; manual dexterity; motor control; pyramidal tract; spinal cord.
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