Neuronal activity in the primate supplementary motor area and the primary motor cortex in relation to spatio-temporal bimanual coordination

I. Kermadi, Y. Liu, A. Tempini, E. Calciati, E. M. Rouiller

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Single neuronal activity was recorded from the supplementary motor area (SMA-proper and pre-SMA) and primary motor cortex (M1) in two Macaca fascicularis trained to perform a delayed conditional sequence of coordinated bimanual pull and grasp movements. The behavioural paradigm was designed to distinguish neuronal activity associated with bimanual coordination from that related to a comparable motor sequence but executed unimanually (left or right arm only). The bimanual and unimanual trials were instructed in a random order by a visual cue. Following the cue, there was a waiting period until presentation of a 'go-signal', signalling the monkey to perform the instructed movement. A total of 143 task-related neurons were recorded from the SMA (SMA-proper, 62; pre-SMA, 81). Most SMA units (87%) were active in both unimanual contralateral and unimanual ipsilateral trials (bilateral neurons), whereas 9% of units were active only in unimanual contralateral trials and 3% were active only in unimanual ipsilateral trials. Forty-eight per cent of SMA task-related units were classified as bimanual, defined as neurons in which the activity observed in bimanual trials could not be predicted from that associated with unimanual trials when comparing the same events related to the same arm. For direct comparison, 527 neurons were recorded from M1 in the same monkeys performing the same tasks. The comparison showed that M1 contains significantly less bilateral neurons (75%) than the SMA, whereas the reverse was observed for contralateral neurons (22% in M1). The proportion of M1 bimanual cells (53%) was not statistically different from that observed in the SMA. The results suggest that both the SMA and M1 may contribute to the control of sequential bimanual coordinated movements. Interlimb coordination may then take place in a distributed network including at least the SMA and M1, but the contribution of other cortical and subcortical areas such as cingulate motor cortex and basal ganglia remains to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-308
Number of pages22
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank V. Moret and C. Roulin for their technical assistance, J. Corpataux and B. Morandi for taking care of the monkeys in the animal room. Thanks are due to A. Gaillard for mechanics, B. Aebischer for designing the hardware of the experimental set-up, and R. Staub for the software. W e thank Christophe Jouffrais and Professor D. K. Ryugo for comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants of the Swiss National Science Foundation to E. M. Rouiller (grant Nos 3130± 025138, 31± 28572.90 and31± 43422.95).


  • Interlimb coordination
  • M1
  • Monkey
  • Motor control
  • Single unit
  • SMA


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