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Relation of neurons in the nonprimary motor cortex to bilateral hand movement


In the primate cerebral cortex there are at least two somatotopically organized, nonprimary motor fields rostral to the primary motor area1,2. To understand the functions of these multiple motor representations we have compared the neuronal activity in each of these fields while monkeys performed a trained motor task, using right, left or both hands. In the nonprimary motor cortex, activity in a number of neurons was related to the movement the animal chose and performed, whereas in the primary motor cortex, changes in the firing of most neurons were simply related to activity in the contralateral muscles. This result indicates that the nonprimary motor cortex is involved in higher-order coding of the laterality of the motor response, implying that it exerts its motor control function at a higher hierarchical level3 than its counterpart in the primary motor cortex.

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Tanji, J., Okano, K. & Sato, K. Relation of neurons in the nonprimary motor cortex to bilateral hand movement. Nature 327, 618–620 (1987).

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