Distribution and characteristics of poststimulus effects in proximal and distal forelimb muscles from red nucleus in the monkey

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Apr;79(4):1777-89. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.79.4.1777.


We used stimulus-triggered averaging (StTA) of electromyographic (EMG) activity to investigate two major questions concerning the functional organization of the magnocellular red nucleus (RNm) for reaching movements in the macaque monkey. The first is whether the clear preference toward facilitation of extensor muscles we have reported in previous studies for distal (wrist and digit) forelimb muscles also exists for proximal muscles (shoulder and elbow). The second question is whether distal and proximal muscles may be cofacilitated from RNm suggesting the representation of functional muscle synergies for coordinated reaching movements. Two monkeys were trained to perform a prehension task requiring multijoint coordination of the forelimb. EMG activity was recorded from 24 forelimb muscles including 5 shoulder, 7 elbow, 5 wrist, 5 digit, and 2 intrinsic hand muscles. Microstimulation (20 microA at 20 Hz) was delivered throughout the movement task. From 137 microstimulation sites in the RNm, a total of 977 poststimulus effects was obtained including 733 poststimulus facilitation effects (PStF) and 244 poststimulus suppression effects (PStS). Of the PStF effects, 58% were obtained from distal muscles; 42% from proximal muscles. Digit muscles were more frequently facilitated (35%) than the wrist, elbow, or shoulder muscles (20, 24, and 18%, respectively). The intrinsic hand muscles were infrequently facilitated (3%). At all joints tested, PStF was more common in extensor muscles than flexor muscles. This extensor preference was very strong for shoulder (85%), wrist (85%), and digit muscles (94%) and weaker for elbow muscles (60%). Of the PStS effects, 65% were in distal muscles and 35% in proximal muscles. Interestingly, the flexor muscles were more frequently inhibited from RNm than extensor muscles. At 72% of stimulation sites, at least two muscles were facilitated. The majority of these sites (61%) cofacilitated both proximal and distal muscles. At the remaining sites (39%), PStF was observed in either the proximal (17%) or distal muscles (22%). Facilitation most often involved combinations of shoulder, elbow, and distal muscles (30%) or shoulder and distal muscles (26%). Only rarely were intrinsic hand muscles part of the total muscle synergy. Our results show that the RNm 1) controls both proximal and distal muscles but the strength of influence is biased toward distal muscles, 2) preferentially controls extensor muscles not only at distal forelimb joints but also at proximal joints, and 3) output zones cofacilitate synergies of proximal and distal muscles involved in the control of forelimb reaching movements.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Forelimb
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Red Nucleus / physiology*