Central Motor Mechanisms
Purves et al., Chapters 17-20, Chap 10, Appendix
Sylvius is also very useful here.
There are many deficits in motor function and coordination. After you have
learned how much of the brain is dedicated to motor function and coordination,
you will appreciate what a gift it is not to be spastic.
Spinal tracts have names like cortico-spinal tract (from -> to).
Above and beyond spinal reflexes, these tracts mediate descending influences
on spinal motor neurons.
view of sheep brain shows cerebral peduncle and pyramids
section of sheep brain shows caudate and lentiform n. (putamen and globus
pallidus), as well as internal capsule (and cerebellum)
Even before considering basal ganglia and cerebellum, paths are complicated
Fig. (like 17.4) p 378
Pyramidal system with corticospinal tract
Corticospinal tract Pyramidal motor system (75-90% crosses) 10 to the 6th
Named because it goes through pyramids on ventral medulla
(though it might have been named from pyramidal shaped neurons in layer
V incl. Betz cells)
Lateral and ventromedial pathways
Summary of corticospinal:
precentral gyrus -> internal capsule -> cerebral peduncles -> pyramids
decussate in brain stem -> lateral cortical spinal tract (see below)
(uncrossed in medial cortical spinal tract) (see below)
(only primates among mammals have monosynaptic pathway to motor neurons)
Initiation of voluntary motor movements
Refer back to the lecture on the somatosensory system:
Fig. 10.4 p. 215
A half spinal cord injury would cause contralateral loss of spinothalamic
below injury and ipailateral loss of lemniscal.
Brown-Sequard syndrome include motor (ipsilateral impairment)
The pathway is neatly organized topographically at the levels of internal
capsule, Cerebral peduncle in midbrain, Pyramid in medulla
Fig. 17.4 p 378
Ventral corticospinal tract
Table A2 (Appendix) pp 724-725
Output for face and upper body via facial nerve (and trigeminal, vagus,
Fig. Box 17A
Interesting in that upper face has bilateral innervation, lower face is
only contralateral in its control
The famous Sunday night TV anchorman Ed Sullivan ("We have a really
big shew for you tonight") had the lopsided mouth described in Box
B for unilateral damage (or stroke).
Fig. not in 5th edition
Red nucleus adds control to arm muscles
Rubrospinal tract from red nucleus replaced by corticospinal in evolution
Fig. 17.11 p. 390
Reticular formation controls axial muscles and proximal limbs
pontine reticulospinal- help to maintain posture
medullary reticulospinal - liberates antigravity from reflex
Fig. 17.15 p 394
Fig. 17.2C (not in 5th edition)
Superior colliculus (tectospinal) goes down to control head movements
Fig. 17.11 p. 390
Vestibular control for posture and catching balance
Fig. 17.5 p 381
topographic map of motor cortex- compare with corresponding sensory homumculus
work by neurosurgeon Penfield, note relative "magnifications"
Precentral gyrus = Brodmann area 4 = M1
Fig. 17.2 p. 377
premotor area (area 6)
Basal ganglia and cerebellum
Basal Ganglia get input from Cerebral Cortex and feed back to motor Cortex
Cerebellum gets input from Cerebral Cortex and feed back to motor Cortex
In early coverage of functional neuroanatomy, this is where the statement
that the thalamus is a motor relay proves true.
Fig. 18.4 (not in 5th edition)
Not just motor cortex, but huge parts of cortex feed to basal ganglia.
Fig. 19.4 (not in 5th edition)
Not just motor cortex, but huge parts of cortex feed to cerebellum.
Basal ganglia and cerebellum take a lot into account to integrate motor
Extrapyramidal (because it lies outside the pyramids)
caudate + putamen = striatum (striated because strands of internal capsule
make it look striated)
putamen + globus pallidus = lentiform nucleus [lens shaped] (see
sheep brain horizontal section)
Fig. 18.2 p. 400
inputs to basal ganglia
cortex and substantia nigra and pars compacta
Fig. 18.4 A p. 403
outputs from basal ganglia
The globus pallidus is a relay nucleus for the caudate and putamen and so
is the subthalamus.
To VA/VL complex of thalamus to motor cortex
also to substantia nigra pars reticulata to superior colliculus
Fig. 18.3 p. 401
connections are to spiny and aspiny neurons in caudate and putamen
Box 18A p. 410
(see the neurotransmitter
Fig. 18.10 p. 409
Lowered excitatory input from substantia nigra via D1 dopamine receptors
leads (through globus pallidus and thalamus) to decreased excitation at
motor cortex, explaining the hypokinesia of motor cortex.
Also there is another interaction via D2 receptors to subthalamic nucleus
Box 18B p. 411
Huntington's (1872) disease (chorea) choreoathetosis
Dominant late onset - many interesting genetic counseling issues. The Folk
singer Woodie Guthrie died of Huntingtons. There is a big family tree derived
from Venezuela near lake Maracaibo
On post-mortem, degeneration of putamen and caudate is observed.
It is on short arm of chromosome 4
1983 and since: cloning -CAG repeat (polyglutamine repeat), 15-34 (normal)
-> 42-66 (Huntington's)
Other trinucleotide repeat diseases: fragile X syndrome, myotonic dystrophy,
sometimes they get worse from generation to generation (anticipation)
Fig. 18.11B p. 409
The diagram is more complicated, but in some ways, Huntingtons is the opposite
of Parkinsons in that circuit has thalamus increasing excitation to cortex.
Dysmetria (cannot approach target), ataxia, intentional tremor if cerebellar
Cerebellum highly developed in electric fish.
Cerebellum is involved in rhythmic activity and plasticity.
An additional decussation makes it so that cerebellum controls the ipsilateral
side of the body.
Fig. 19.3 p 420
input to cerebellum
especially from cerebrum, vestibular apparatus and spinal cord
Fig. 19.5 p. 421
output from cerebellum
via deep cerebellar nucleus via superior cerebellar peduncle to VL complex
of thalamus to motor and premotor cortex
Fig. 19.9 B p. 424
cerebellum is a fairly "simple circuit"
Fig. 19.10 p. 425
excitatory and inhibitory interactions are known
Mossy fibers input to 10-100 billion granule cells to parallel fibers, and
many connect to each spectacular Purkinje cell.
Also inpput from climbing fiber makes more 1:1 connection to Purkinje fiber.
Also local circuits from basket cells, Golgi cells, and stellate cells
Fig Box 19 B pp431-432
There are very interesting mouse mutants, reeler, weaver, leaner, lurcher,
nervous, Purkinje cell degeneration (those last two interestingly cause
blindness too) and staggerer.
reeler is cloned, had a defect in protein like extracellular matrix proteins
and has defect in migration of cells during development.
weaver is a K+ channel.
Eye movements make an interesting example
Fig. Box 20 A p. 437
if image is stabilized on the retina the image disappears
Fig. 20.3 p. 438
a reminder of muscles and wiring
Abducens (VI) to lateral rectus
Trochlear (IV) to (contralateral) superior oblique
Occulomotor (III) to the rest (and eyelid control and the pupil)
Types of eye movements: saccades (also in REM sleep), smooth pursuit, vergence,
drift, and vestibular control
Fig. 20.8 p. 441
horizontal saccades are controlled by paramedian pontine reticular formation
PPRF (gaze center)
Fig. 20.11 p. 447
Superior colliculus involved (and frontal eye field)
Fig. 20.9 p. 442
Stimulate superior colliculus and bring fixation to receptive field of area
Exam questions from 2005 - 2011 related to this outline
Where are the cells that form the lateral and medial tracts of the pyramidal
In the Brown Sequard syndrome, the motor impairment below a half spinal
cord lesion is most like (which sensory system?).
like the lemniscal system
What is a major difference in how the primary motor cortex vs the cingulate
motor area innervates the face?
lower face from primary motor cortex is contralateral, upper face from cingulate
Of course, the corticospinal tract is the brain's main influence on spinal
motor neurons, even integrating in the processing from the basal ganglia.
There are several other brain locations that send information to the spinal
cord. Name one.
superior colliculus, red nucleus, reticular formation and vestibular nuclei
The corticobulbar tract is used for (what function?) for (what part of the
body?). Answer both.
motor function in the face
The superior cerebellar peduncle (brachium conjunctivum) carries information
from deep cerebellar nuclei to (where?).
VL complex (thalamus)
In a wiring diagram (or a block diagram), the caudate and putamen make their
next connection (where?).
Compared with a person with no motor impairment, describe the magnitude
of signal from the VA/VL complex of the thalamus to the cerebral cortex
for someone with Huntington's disease.
The basal ganglia collect information from what portion of the cerebral
most of it
What part of the brain is most affected in the mutants reeler, weaver, leaner,
lurcher, nervous and staggerer?
Say something about how the "gaze center" (PPRF) in the reticular
formation connects to the occulomotor nucleus.
via abducens nucleus, with a decussation
The frog's eye connects to the visual part of the brain, the tectum. In
humans [answer either] (1) What is the tectum called? Or (2) What aspect
of vision does the human analog of the tectum subserve?
superior colliculus, eye movements
Where are the cell body and the synaptic terminal of an axon in the lateral
precentral gyrus to spinal motor neuron
"The motor loss from a half spinal cord lesion is more like the lemniscal
sensory loss than it is like the spinothalamic sensory loss." Why?"
decussation in medulla, so ipsilateral
Why would motor control of the lower part of the face be more susceptible
to nerve damage than the upper part?
not bilaterally innervated
"Corticobulbar control of the face involves connections to the brainstem
nuclei for the hypoglossal, facial, accessory, and vagus nerves." Woops,
I left (what?) obvious nucleus- nerve from the list?
With respect to output from the thalamus to the cortex, Huntington's is
the opposite of Parkinson's." in what way?
Too much excitation
Pick one (1) The Purkinje cell gets connections from lots of these cells.
Or (2) The Purkinje cell gets connections from one of these cells.
granule cells (parallel fibers), climbing fiber
In what way, neurologically, is the trochlear output to the superior oblique
uniquely different from that of the oculomotor and abducens to the other
What is different when you jiggle your eyeball with your finger vs with
saccades, smooth pursuit, vergence, drift, and vestibular-controlled eye
there is no space constancy
In the sheep brain dissection, we peeled off the brachium pontis to
the ventral midline. There we (presumably) saw (what tract?).
A lesion halfway across the spinal cord would lead to a motor loss below
the lesion on which side (use the appropriate term)?
Voluntary output to the upper and lower part of the face differs in what
fundamental (neurological) way?
Upper-bilateral, lower only contralateral
Name a brain location other than the motor cortex that sends a motor tract
down the spinal cord.
Reticular formation, vestibular nucleus, red nucleus, superior colliculus
In terms of the cortical motor map of the face, rationalize why it is as
extensive as the corresponding sensory representation of the face.
There are many muscles mediating many expressions
Regarding caudate and putamen, answer either (1) They get input from (what
major area?) in addition to the substantia nigra? Or (2) In addition to
the pars compacta and the substantia nigra, their output is to (where?)?
cerebral cortex, VA/VL thalamus
"In a sense, Huntington's is the opposite of Parkinson's." Rationalize
this statement on the basis of either (1) thalamic input to cortex, or (2)
behavior of the afflicted person.
Excitatory input to cortex is lower in Parkinson's, explaining hypokinesia,
higher in Huntington's explaining choreo-athetosis
Dorsal nucleus of Clarke, inferior olive, vestibular nuclei ­p; this
is an incomplete list of brain stem areas that feed to the cerebellar cortex.
Complete the list (one more item).
Pontine nuclei relay information from cerebral cortex
Regarding the Purkinje cell, answer one of these: (1) What is the nucleus
it outputs to? (2) What cell makes numerous inputs to each Purkinje cell?
Or (3) What cell has one-on-one input to the Purkinje cell?
Deep cerebellar nuclei, granule cell (parallel fibers), climbing fiber
What is the main motor nerve to control facial expression?
What portion of the cerebral cortex projects to the basal ganglia?
Why is Huntington's referred to as a "triplet repeat disease?"
CAG nucleotide triplet increases coding for polyglutamine
Why would paralysis be a more likely consequence of stroke in the lower
portion of the face than in the upper portion?
upper is bilaterally innervated, lower is not
Which nerve innervates more than one extraocular muscle?
Increased motor excitation from thalamus to motor cortex is the hallmark
of what genetic disease?
"The left side of the brain is for the right side of the body"
is the conventional wisdom that most people learn early in their science
education. Where is the cross-over for the direct
output from the primary motor cortex to the spinal motor neurons?
Here is a partial list of descending motor tracts to spinal cord: colliculospinal,
rubrospinal, reticulospinal and vestibulospinal. What major descending tract
is missing from that list?
What is the extrapyramidal system?
motor system outside pyramids involving basal ganglia
What part of the brain is especially altered in the ataxic weaver mouse
When specialized optics are used to stabilize the image on the retina despite
eye movements, what does the subject perceive?
What conspicuous midbrain structure is missing from the following list of
areas involved in eye movement: PPRF (gaze center), vestibular system, abducens,
What cell, a well-known cell type, is the output to the deep cerebellar
"The thalamus is a major motor relay station." Justify this statement
when the pyramidal motor system does not synapse in the thalamus.
extrapyramidal system feeds back to cortex via thalamus
The rectus muscles move the eyes up and down and side to side. What are
the muscles that rotate the eyes?
"Diminished excitation and increased inhibition to the globus pallidus
inner segment contribute to chorea in Huntington's disease." Name one
of the brain areas that input to the globus pallidus.
What cranial nerve is missing from the following list for motor output to
the face: trigeminal, vagus, accessory, hypoglossal.
A unilateral lesion in the cranial nerve would cause unilateral weakness
in the top and bottom of the face. Why might only the lower part of the
face be afflicted if the lesion were in the brain?
because there is ipsilateral and contralateral control
Where is the first synapse of a cell of the precentral gyrus whose axon
is in the pyramidal motor system?
on the spinal motor neuron
Where would there be a motor defect below a hemisection of the spinal cord?
ipsilateral to the lesion
In somatotopic organization, there is a homunculus of the body, with face
and hands over-represented, on the postcentral gyrus. Where is the corresponding
motor map, also with exaggerated face and hands, located?
Basal ganglia feed via the globus pallidus to the cerebral cortex. What
relay area is between the two?
While discussing extrapyramidal control of motor movements, there was a
figure showing the entire cerebral cortex shaded (except primary auditory
and visual cortex areas). What does this shaded area represent?
the part of the cerebral cortex with input to the basal ganglia
"Polyglutamine repeat." Translate.
glutamine is an amino acid. polyglutamine repeat is a string of them, with
a low number in normals and a high number in Huntington's
Granule cells and climbing fibers both connect to Purkinje cells, but in
different numbers. Specify.
In the diagrams, middle and inferior cerebellar peduncles are inputs to
the cerebellar cortex. The superior cerebellar peduncle is output from deep
cerebellar nuclei to (where)?
The trochlear is the contralateral output. Which two nerves, subserving
the same overall function, have ipsilateral output?
occulomotor and abducens
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