The volitional impairments of alien limb and apraxia are a defining feature of the corticobasal syndrome, but a limited understanding of their neurocognitive aetiology has hampered progress towards effective treatments. Here we combined several key methods to investigate the mechanism of impairments in voluntary action in corticobasal syndrome. We used a quantitative measure of awareness of action that is based on well-defined processes of motor control; structural and functional anatomical information; and evaluation against the clinical volitional disorders of corticobasal syndrome. In patients and healthy adults we measured 'intentional binding', the perceived temporal attraction between voluntary actions and their sensory effects. Patients showed increased binding of the perceived time of actions towards their effects. This increase correlated with the severity of alien limb and apraxia, which we suggest share a core deficit in motor control processes, through reduced precision in voluntary action signals. Structural neuroimaging analyses showed the behavioural variability in patients was related to changes in grey matter volume in pre-supplementary motor area, and changes in its underlying white matter tracts to prefrontal cortex. Moreover, changes in functional connectivity at rest between the pre-supplementary motor area and prefrontal cortex were proportional to changes in binding. These behavioural, structural and functional results converge to reveal the frontal network for altered awareness and control of voluntary action in corticobasal syndrome, and provide candidate markers to evaluate new therapies.
Keywords: alien limb; apraxia; corticobasal syndrome; pre-supplementary motor area; volition; voluntary action.