[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Humans and other primates demonstrate an exquisite ability to precisely shape their hand when reaching out to grasp an object. Here we used a recently developed transcranial magnetic stimulation paradigm to examine how information about an object's geometric properties is transformed into specific motor programs. Pairs of transcranial magnetic stimulation pulses were delivered at precise intervals to detect changes in the excitability of cortico-cortical inputs to motor cortex when subjects prepared to grasp different objects. We show that at least 600 ms before movement, there is an enhancement in the excitability of these inputs to the corticospinal neurons projecting from motor cortex to the specific muscles that will be used for the grasp. These changes were object- and muscle-specific, and the degree of modulation in the inputs was correlated with the pattern of muscular activity used later by individual subjects to grasp the objects. In a number of control experiments, we demonstrated that no change in excitability was observed during object presentation alone, under conditions in which subjects imagined grasping the object, or before movements involving the same muscles but without an object. This finding demonstrates a cortico-cortical mechanism subserving the transformation from the geometrical properties of an object to the outputs from motor cortex before grasp that is specific for object-driven movements.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2005; 102(3):898-903. · 9.74 Impact Factor