Primary motor cortex is involved in bimanual coordination

Nature. 1998 Sep 17;395(6699):274-8. doi: 10.1038/26220.


Many voluntary movements involve coordination between the limbs. However, there have been very few attempts to study the neuronal mechanisms that mediate this coordination. Here we have studied the activity of cortical neurons while monkeys performed tasks that required coordination between the two arms. We found that most neurons in the primary motor cortex (MI) show activity specific to bimanual movements (bimanual-related activity), which is strikingly different from the activity of the same neurons during unimanual movements. Moreover, units in the supplementary motor area (SMA; the area of cortex most often associated with bimanual coordination) showed no more bimanual-related activity than units in MI. Our results challenge the classic view that MI controls the contralateral (opposite) side of the body and that SMA is responsible for the coordination of the arms. Rather, our data suggest that both cortical areas share the control of bilateral coordination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electromyography
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*