Representation of individual forelimb muscles in primary motor cortex

Heather M. Hudson, Michael C. Park, Abderraouf Belhaj-Saïf, Paul D. Cheney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Stimulus-triggered averaging (StTA) of forelimb muscle electromyographic (EMG) activity was used to investigate individual forelimb muscle representation within the primary motor cortex (M1) of rhesus macaques with the objective of determining the extent of intra-areal somatotopic organization. Two monkeys were trained to perform a reach-to-grasp task requiring multijoint coordination of the forelimb. EMG activity was simultaneously recorded from 24 forelimb muscles including 5 shoulder, 7 elbow, 5 wrist, 5 digit, and 2 intrinsic hand muscles. Microstimulation (15 μA at 15 Hz) was delivered throughout the movement task and individual stimuli were used as triggers for generating StTAs of EMG activity. StTAs were used to map the cortical representations of individual forelimb muscles. As reported previously (Park et al. 2001), cortical maps revealed a central core of distal muscle (wrist, digit, and intrinsic hand) representation surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped proximal (shoulder and elbow) muscle representation. In the present study, we found that shoulder and elbow flexor muscles were predominantly represented in the lateral branch of the horseshoe whereas extensors were predominantly represented in the medial branch. Distal muscles were represented within the core distal forelimb representation and showed extensive overlap. For the first time, we also show maps of inhibitory output from motor cortex, which follow many of the same organizational features as the maps of excitatory output. NEW & NOTEWORTHY While the orderly representation of major body parts along the precentral gyrus has been known for decades, questions have been raised about the possible existence of additional more detailed aspects of somatotopy. In this study, we have investigated this question with respect to muscles of the arm and show consistent features of within-arm (intra-areal) somatotopic organization. For the first time we also show maps of how inhibitory output from motor cortex is organized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ian Edwards for technical assistance. Present address for M. C. Park: Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, 420 Delaware St. SE, MMC 96, Minneapolis, MN 55455. This work was supported by NIH Grants NS051825 and NS39023, the Kathleen M. Osborn Endowment, and NIH Center Grant HD02528.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 the American Physiological Society.


  • EMG
  • Forelimb
  • ICMS
  • Mapping motor cortex


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