Organization of reaching and grasping movements in the primate cerebellar nuclei as revealed by focal muscimol inactivations

Carolyn R. Mason, Lee E. Miller, James F. Baker, James C. Houk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Two monkeys were trained to point to targets and to retrieve fruit bits from a Kluver board, bottles, and tubes. Once proficient in the tasks, the macaques underwent aseptic surgical implantation of a recording chamber over the cerebellar nuclei on the side of their preferred hand. After recovery from surgery, a series of mapping penetrations were completed to identify task-related areas within the cerebellar nuclei. Muscimol (4- 16 μg; 1-2 μg/μl) was pressure injected at different sites within the forelimb zone, and the resultant deficits were observed as the monkeys performed the behavioral tasks. Quantitative measures of task performance were supplemented by direct observation of live and videotaped performance. The locations of nuclear inactivation sites were reconstructed from marking lesions and tracks visible in histological sections. Injections placed in the cerebellar interpositus nucleus and adjacent regions of dentate caused a variety of deficits in forelimb function. A prominent anteroposterior specialization was apparent within the forelimb zone of this intermediate nuclear region. Injections into the anterior interpositus nucleus and adjacent dentate impaired preshaping of the hand and the manipulation of objects, whereas injections placed more posteriorly in posterior interpositus nucleus and adjacent dentate produced deficits in the aiming of reach and the stability of the arm. During anterior injections, the monkeys failed to adequately extend their fingers in preparation for target contact, as documented for >85% of the reaches in the pointing task of monkey J. Up to 38% of the fruit bits it attempted to retrieve from the Kluver board were dropped. In comparison, during posterior inactivations, 15% were dropped and during control conditions 3% were dropped. The monkeys made significantly greater pointing errors during posterior inactivations (11 times for monkey J and 4 times for monkey C) than during anterior inactivations (8 times for monkey J and 2 times for monkey C). We refer to the region producing hand deficits as the anterior hand zone and the region producing reaching deficits as the posterior reach zone. These results are discussed in relation to the problem of achieving spatiotemporal coordination in the large population of nuclear cells that participate in any given movement. The results do not favor the hypothesis that coordination is achieved through a selection of Purkinje cells along beams of parallel fibers. Instead, it is proposed that distal and proximal musculature is coordinated by the adaptive influences of climbing fiber input to Purkinje cells. We envision a relatively nonspecific recruitment of anterior and posterior nuclear cells due to positive feedback in the limb premotor network, which then is shaped into an appropriate spatiotemporal pattern of discharge through the inhibitory input from Purkinje cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-554
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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