Evidence for direct connections between the hand region of the supplementary motor area and cervical motoneurons in the macaque monkey

Eur J Neurosci. 1996 May;8(5):1055-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1996.tb01592.x.


In primates the corticospinal neurons of the hand representation of the primary motor cortex (M1) give rise to direct contacts with the cervical motoneurons that control distal forelimb muscles. We investigated, at the light-microscopy level, whether corticospinal cells present in the hand area of the supplementary motor area (SMA) also establish direct connections with cervical motoneurons, particularly those innervating hand and finger muscles. The hand representation of the M1 (two monkeys) or SMA (two monkeys) was located using intracortical microstimulation and injected with the anterograde tracer biotinylated dextran amine to label corticospinal terminals. Forearm muscles acting on the wrist and hand as well as hand muscles acting on the thumb and index finger, thus including those activated by intracortical stimulation, were injected with the retrograde tracer cholera-toxin B subunit, in order to label the motoneurons. A consistent zone of overlap between the two markers was found in the cervical cord. Close appositions between corticospinal axonal terminals and the somata or dendrites of motoneurons were found after injection in the M1, confirming previous observations. The new finding is the observation of similar close appositions after injection in the SMA, suggesting its control of hand movements in parallel with the M1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neck / innervation*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology