Contribution of the monkey corticomotoneuronal system to the control of force in precision grip

J Neurophysiol. 1993 Mar;69(3):772-85. doi: 10.1152/jn.1993.69.3.772.


1. The contribution of 33 corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells, recorded in the primary motor cortex, to the production of precision grip force has been investigated in four monkeys (Macaca nemestrina). These CM cells were shown, by spike-triggered averaging, to facilitate electromyographic (EMG) activity of hand and forearm muscles. 2. Single-cell recordings were obtained as the monkey performed a low force precision grip task under either isometric or auxotonic conditions. The monkey had to produce independent control of the forces exerted by the thumb and index finger and maintain them for 1-1.5 s. Steady force segments of data were selected trial-by-trial from these hold periods. For each segment the following mean values were determined: 1) CM cell firing rate, 2) EMG activity of facilitated muscles, and 3) index finger, thumb, and total force. 3. Of the 33 CM cells, 18 had a phasic-tonic pattern of discharge during the task, 7 were tonic, 5 had a ramplike increase, and 3 were deactivated during the hold period. 4. Of the 33 cells analyzed, 11 showed a significant positive (P < 0.05) correlation of their mean firing rate with static force; 4 of them had high correlation coefficients (P < 0.001). There was a considerable trial-by-trial variability in the cells' activity-force relationship. Six CM cells had significant negative correlations between their activity and isometric force (5 at the P < 0.001 level), showing lower firing rates with higher forces. 5. The force sensitivity of the CM cells, calculated from the rate-force slopes, was higher for either the thumb or the index finger force. Under isometric conditions the mean rate-force slopes, calculated from the best correlated digit force, was 32.4 Hz/N for eight positively correlated cells and -21.3 Hz/N for the cells with a negative correlation. 6. Correlation between CM cell spike activity and force was more common among neurons with slowly conducting axons (4/6 correlated) than for those with fast axons (13/27). 7. Significant correlations between target muscle EMG and force were always positive. The correlations between CM cell firing rate and target muscle EMG were comparable with those found between firing rate and force. Three of the CM cells with a negative correlation to force also had a negative correlation with EMG in one of their target muscles. 8. Each CM cell facilitated the EMG activity of one to five target muscles; postspike facilitation (PSF) was most common among intrinsic hand muscles (68/82 CM cell/muscle combinations).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Hand / innervation
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Macaca nemestrina
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation