Distinct influence of hand posture on cortical activity during human grasping

Monica A Perez*, John C. Rothwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We recently showed that subcortical circuits contribute to control the gain of motor cortical inputs to spinal motoneurons during precision grip of a small object. Here, we examine whether the involvement of the motor cortex could be revealed by grasping with different hand postures. Using noninvasive cortical, cervicomedullary, and peripheral nerve stimulation we examined in humans motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) and the activity in intracortical circuits (suppression of voluntary electromyography) and spinal motoneurons (F-waves) inintrinsichandmuscles whengraspinga6mmcylinder withtheindexfinger andthumbwhilethehandwas heldintheneutral position or during full pronation and supination. We demonstrate that the size of cortically evoked MEPs in the first dorsal interosseous, but not in the abductor pollicis brevis and abductor digit minimi muscles, was reduced to a similar extent during grasping with the hand pronated or supinated compared with the neutral position. Notably, the suppression of MEPs was present from the MEP onset, suggesting that indirect corticospinal pathways were less likely to be involved than direct connections. There was less intracortical inhibition targeting the first dorsal interosseous during hand pronation and supination compared with neutral and this negatively correlated with changes in MEP size. In contrast, cervicomedullary MEPs and F-waves remained unchanged across conditions, as did MEPs evoked during unopposed weak flexion of the index finger. Our findings reveal a distinct influence of the posture of the hand on the activity of cortical pathways controlling different hand muscles during grasping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4882-4889
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2015


  • Corticomotoneuronal cells
  • Corticospinal tract
  • Intracortical inhibition
  • Precision grip
  • Primary motor cortex
  • Voluntary drive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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