Fast ballistic arm movements triggered by visual, auditory, and somesthetic stimuli in the monkey. I. Activity of precentral cortical neurons

J Neurophysiol. 1983 Dec;50(6):1343-58. doi: 10.1152/jn.1983.50.6.1343.


Single-unit recordings from motor cortex (area 4) were obtained in two monkeys trained to perform simple flexion and extension movements of the arm in response to somesthetic, visual, and auditory signals. All neurons tested showed movement-related responses that were identical for equivalent movements irrespective of the modality of the triggering stimulus. Progressively longer reaction times were always associated with progressively longer latencies of unit responses. When visual and auditory stimuli were presented simultaneously, the intensity and the duration of both motor and unitary responses remained unchanged as if only one stimulus (auditory) had been given. When the auditory stimulus was appropriately delayed with respect to the visual one, shortening of motor reaction time was observed with a corresponding shortening of the latency of unit responses. In addition to movement-related responses, some neurons showed sensory-related responses mainly to the somesthetic stimulus (37%) and more rarely to the auditory (11%) and visual stimuli (3%). These "sensory" responses preceded and were independent of the movement-related responses; they showed no obvious correlation with the reaction time. Whenever tested, the somatosensory responses persisted after extinction of the motor responses. These findings suggest that, in our experimental conditions, area 4 neurons of the monkey are not involved in the early processing of sensory information required for the initiation of simple, triggered movements. Rather, they appear to generate signals that are mainly related to the characteristics of the motor responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation