Activation of the Supplementary Motor Area (SMA) during Performance of Visually Guided Movements


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Abstract

The supplementary motor area (SMA) has long been thought to have a special role in the internal generation of complex movements. Yet, a number of recent functional imaging studies indicate that the SMA is activated during the execution of simple movements guided by sensory cues. The extent of participation of the cingulate motor areas in visually guided movements also is unclear. To explore these issues we used the 2-deoxyglucose (2DG) technique to measure functional activation in the motor areas on the medial wall of the hemisphere in monkeys trained to perform visually guided reaching movements to randomly presented targets. This approach enabled us to make precise comparisons between sites of activation and the location of specific premotor areas on the medial wall of the hemisphere. We found that the SMA was strongly activated during reaching to different visual targets. Indeed, its activation was comparable to that of the primary motor cortex (M1). In contrast, none of the cingulate motor areas displayed significantly increased activation specifically related to arm movements. Our results provide further support for the involvement of the SMA in visually guided movements. Furthermore, our observations suggest that during externally guided reaching, SMA activation is tightly coupled to that of M1, but dissociated from that of the cingulate motor areas.

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