Bereitschaftspotential as an indicator of movement preparation in supplementary motor area and motor cortex

Ciba Found Symp. 1987;132:231-50. doi: 10.1002/9780470513545.ch14.


Topographical studies in humans of the Bereitschaftspotential (BP, or readiness potential, as averaged from the electroencephalogram) and the Bereitschaftsmagnetfeld (BM, or readiness magnetic field, as averaged from the magnetoencephalogram) revealed a widespread distribution of motor preparation over both hemispheres even before unilateral movement. This indicates the existence of several generators responsible for the BP, including generators in the ipsilateral hemisphere, which is in agreement with measurements of regional cerebral blood flow or regional cerebral energy metabolism. Nevertheless, two principal generators seem to prevail: (1) An early generator, starting its activity 1s or more before the motor act, with its maximum at the vertex. For this and other reasons, early BP generation probably stems from cortical tissue representing or including the supplementary motor area (SMA). (2) A later generator, starting its activity about 0.5s before the onset of movement and biased towards the contralateral hemisphere (contralateral preponderance of negativity, CPN). For unilateral finger movements the CPN succeeds the BP's initial bilateral symmetry in the later preparation period. Thus, this lateralized BP component probably stems from the primary motor area, MI (area 4, hand representation). While regional cerebral blood flow or regional cerebral energy metabolism show that the SMA is active in conjunction with motor acts, these data do not permit the conclusion that SMA activity precedes motor acts. This can only be shown by the Bereitschaftspotential, which proves that SMA activity occurs before the onset of movement and, what is more, before the onset of MI activity. This important order of events (first SMA, then MI activation) has been elucidated by our BP studies. It gives the SMA an important functional role: the initiation of voluntary movement. The recording of movement-related potentials associated with manual hand-tracking and motor learning points to the SMA and frontal cortex having an important role in these functions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Electroencephalography
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology