Direct and indirect corticospinal control of arm and hand motoneurons in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus)

J Neurophysiol. 1997 Aug;78(2):721-33. doi: 10.1152/jn.1997.78.2.721.


Anatomic evidence suggests that direct corticomotoneuronal (CM) projections to hand motoneurons in the New World squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) are weak or absent, but electrophysiological evidence is lacking. The nature of the corticospinal linkage to these motoneurons was therefore investigated first with the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex under ketamine sedation in five monkeys. TMS produced early responses in hand muscle electromyogram, but thresholds were high (compared with macaque monkey) and the onset latency was variable. Second, stimulation of the pyramidal tract (PT) was carried out with the use of chronically implanted electrodes in ketamine-sedated monkeys; this produced more robust responses that were markedly facilitated by repetitive stimulation, with little decrease in latency on the third compared with the first shock. Finally, postsynaptic potentials were recorded intracellularly from 93 arm and hand motoneurons in five monkeys under general chloralose anesthesia. After a single PT stimulus, the most common response was a small, slowly rising excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP), either alone (35 of 93 motoneurons) or followed by an inhibitory postsynaptic potential (39 of 93). The segmental delay of the early EPSPs was within the monosynaptic range (mean 0.85 ms); however, the rise time of these EPSPs was slow (mean 1.3 ms) and their amplitude was small (mean 0.74 mV). These values are significantly slower and smaller than EPSPs in a comparable sample of Old World macaque monkey motoneurons. The results show that CM connections do exist in the squirrel monkey but that they are weak and possibly located on the remote dendrites of the motoneurons. The findings are consistent with earlier anatomic studies. Repetitive PT stimulation produced large, late EPSPs in some motoneurons, suggesting that, in this species, there are relatively strong nonmonosynaptic pathways linking the corticospinal tract to hand motoneurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm / innervation*
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Saimiri
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology