Magnocellular red nucleus activity during different types of limb movement in the macaque monkey.

A. R. Gibson*, J. C. Houk, N. J. Kohlerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Three hundred and thirty‐four neurones located in the magnocellular division of red nucleus (r.n.m.) were studied in three alert macaque monkeys. These cells had low discharge rates at rest and produced high frequency bursts during movement. Single cells were selectively active for movement of one body part, and a motor somatotopy was evident. From dorsal to ventral we encountered cells related to movements of the face, contralateral upper limb, contralateral lower limb and, in one case, the tail. Free‐form tests indicated that 76% of upper‐limb cells were preferentially related to hand and finger movements, and 84% of lower limb cells were preferentially related to foot and toe movements. Quantitative tests of movement relations were based on depths of modulation in discharge rate recorded while the monkeys operated several devices that served as manipulanda in a tracking task; each device elicited a different movement. We conducted 220 tests on eighty‐one cells using eleven devices. The modulation in discharge rate exceeded a 50 pulses/s criterion level in seventy‐nine cases; eleven were well related to proximal movements, twenty‐two to movements of the digits and forty‐six to a co‐ordinated hand movement elicited by a device called the twister. Both unidirectional and bidirectional patterns of bursting were frequent. A few cells showed reciprocal patterns consisting of a large increase in rate for one direction of movement and a small decrease for the other. The bursts in discharge preceded movement onset (97% of 132 cases) by an average of 135 ms. Electromyographic activity in forearm muscles preceded movement by about 55 ms. In some cases we recorded from a single cell while the monkey operated two, three or four devices. Depth of modulation on the twister device was twice that on a proximal device in nine cases whereas one case showed a proximal device preference; five cases showed overlap. Comparison between twister and digits yielded ten cases of twister preference, four of digit preference and twenty cases of overlap. A directional preference was found for ten out of eleven cells responsive during active movement restricted to the metacarpo‐phalangeal joints, and in all cases the preferred direction was extension. Responses to natural somatosensory stimulation were weak or absent for the majority of cells. When present, sensory fields were confined to the same limb but were frequently out of register with motor fields.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-549
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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