Comparable patterns of muscle facilitation evoked by individual corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells and by single intracortical microstimuli in primates: evidence for functional groups of CM cells

J Neurophysiol. 1985 Mar;53(3):786-804. doi: 10.1152/jn.1985.53.3.786.


We compared the averaged responses of forelimb muscles to action potentials of single motor cortex cells and to single intracortical microstimuli (S-ICMS). Activity of precentral neurons and 12 identified forelimb muscles (6 flexors and 6 extensors of wrist and fingers) was recorded in macaques while they performed alternating ramp-and-hold wrist movements. Action potentials of cells that covaried reliably with wrist flexion or extension were used to compile spike-triggered averages (spike-TAs) of rectified electromyographic (EMG) activity of six synergistically coactivated muscles. Cells whose spikes were followed by a clear postspike facilitation (PSF) of rectified muscle activity were designated corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells. CM cells typically facilitated a subset of the coactivated muscles called the cell's target muscles. The relative strength of the PSF in different target muscles ranged from clear increases above base-line fluctuations to weak but significant effects. For each CM cell we characterized the "PSF profile" of facilitation across different muscles, defined as the relative strength of PSF in each of the coactivated agonist muscles. After identifying the CM cell's target muscles, we delivered S-ICMS through the microelectrode at the same site. Biphasic stimuli were delivered during the same wrist movements in which the recorded CM cell had been active. Stimulus intensities were too weak (typically 5-10 microA) and their repetition rate too slow (5-15 Hz) to evoke muscle excitation evident in the raw EMG record. However, stimulus-triggered averages (stimulus-TAs) of the rectified EMGs of coactivated muscles revealed consistent patterns of poststimulus facilitation (PStimF). In most cases the muscles facilitated by the CM cell in spike-TAs (n = 60) were also facilitated by S-ICMS in stimulus-TAs. At sites of CM cells the threshold stimulus intensities for evoking a statistically significant effect were between 0.5 and 2 microA. S-ICMS of 5 microA evoked PStimF that was, on the average, six times stronger than the PSF of the CM cell. The height of the facilitation peak relative to base-line fluctuations was 5-60 times greater for the stimuli than the spikes of the CM cell. The average onset latency of PStimF (8.0 +/- 1.2 ms) was 1.3 ms longer than the mean latency of PSF (6.7 +/- 1.4 ms). At two-thirds of the cortical sites where both spike- and stimulus-TAs were computed (n = 30), the PStimF profile exactly matched the PSF profile.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Forelimb
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission