Interactions Between Cognitive and Sensorimotor Functions in the Motor Cortex: Evidence from the Preparatory Motor Sets Anticipating a Perturbation
Reviews in the Neurosciences
SYNOPSIS The many signs of cognitive processes in the activation pattern of the primary motor cortex or in corticospinal (CS) excitability gave rise to the idea that the motor cortex is a crucial node in the processing of cognitive information related to sensorimotor functions. Moreover, it became clear that the preparatory motor sets offer a privileged window to investigate the interaction between cognitive and sensorimotor function in the motor cortex. In the present review, we examine how
... study of the preparatory motor sets anticipating a mechanical movement perturbation contributes to enlightening this question. Following the initial observation made by Hammond that some components of the stretch reflex can be modulated by a prior intention either to resist or to relax in response to a subsequent perturbation, first evidence of the phenomenon was obtained in behaving monkeys /29/. Moreover, this study /29/ related this peripheral fact to the observed anticipatory activity of motor cortex neurons after a prior instruction telling the animal how to respond to the subsequent perturbation, which triggered the instructed movement. Indeed, this anticipatory activity was found to be different according to the instruction. In the 1980s, this work inspired a lot of studies in human beings that brought support to the idea of a cognitive tuning of the long latency stretch response (LLSR). Specifically, the M2 component of the response was shown to be modulated by a prior intent to resist versus to let go when faced with the perturbation. Recently, new approaches have been developed to obtain evidence of a cognitive tuning of CS excitability, thanks to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS has been used both as a reliable tool for quantifying the CS excitability via the motor evoked potentials (MEPs), and to centrally perturb the organization of movement. Such central perturbations offer the unique opportunity to activate the descending motor tracts while shunting, for a short time period, the ascending tracts assisting the movement. Thus, CS excitability was measured before the movement was perturbed. These studies demonstrated the readiness of the CS tract to be involved in anticipatory compensatory responses to central movement perturbations induced by TMS in relation to the subject's cognitive attitudes. The question of the cerebral regions upstream of the motor cortex that could be responsible for this modulation in CS excitability remains largely open.