The role of the motor cortex in the control of accuracy of locomotor movements in the cat

J Physiol. 1993 Feb;461:1-25. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1993.sp019498.


1. The impulse activity of single neurones in the motor cortex (MC) was recorded extracellularly, using movable varnish-insulated tungsten microelectrodes, in six adult, freely moving cats. Neuronal activity was recorded while the cats walked on a flat floor, as they stepped over a series of barriers, and as they walked on the flat rungs of a horizontal ladder. The mean discharge rate (mR) and the depth of frequency modulation (dM) in each cell were estimated over 10-100 steps. 2. The activity of ninety-eight MC cells (Including thirteen pyramidal tract neurones (PTNs)) was recorded during stepping over barriers 25 cm apart. The mR in 66% and the dM in 61% of these cells changed by more than 20% during locomotion with barriers compared to locomotion on the flat (an increase was more often the case). 3. The activity of nine cells was recorded during stepping over barriers 12 cm apart, and the activity of twenty-seven cells (including five PTNs) during walking with barriers only 6 cm apart. The mR in 67% and in 59% of the cells, respectively, and the dM in 56% and in 67% of the cells, respectively, were greater in these locomotor tasks than during locomotion on the flat. 4. The activity of twenty cells was recorded during walking and compared in experiments with different distances between barriers. The mR in 50% and the dM in 75% of the neurones progressively increased when the distance between successive barriers was diminished. 5. The discharge rates of thirteen cells were compared in two different locomotor tasks: (i) when the cat stepped over barriers requiring hyperflexion of the limbs and (ii) when it walked on the flat with loads attached to the distal forelimbs causing a hyperactivity of flexor muscles. The activity of nine cells was different during stepping over the barriers compared to locomotion with loadings on the forelimbs. 6. The activity of 108 cells (twenty-four PTNs) was recorded during walking along a horizontal ladder with flat rungs. The mR of 61% and the dM of 72% of cells changed by more than 20% during locomotion on the ladder compared with that on the flat (most often they increased). 7. The position of the peak rate relative to the step cycle did not differ in the majority of cells (in 78-91% depending on the task) during locomotion on the flat, with the barriers or on the ladder.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Forelimb / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Microelectrodes
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology