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Cat red nucleus changes of activity during the motor initiation in a reaction time task

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Unit recordings were made in the posterior red nucleus of 4 freely moving cats, performing a conditioned forelimb flexion in response to a sound, in a simple reaction time (RT) paradigm. More than 50% of the recorded neurons (154) were found to be task-related, with marked changes of firing (mostly increases) time-locked with the go-signal (mean latency: 40.8 ms ± 12 ms SD) and frequency-correlated with the duration of the RT. These RT-correlated changes of firing disappeared or were markedly decreased when the movement was not triggered. Most of the task-related neurons also displayed late changes of firing during the force change, time-locked with the movement. Furthermore, a clear relation was observed between the rubral firing before and after the go-signal and the sensorimotor field of the recorded neuron: the neurons preferentially related to limb or trunk movements discharged with the highest frequency throughout the conditioned sequence and exhibited the best RT-correlated increases of firing during the movement initiation. In contrast, rubral neurons apparently related to head-movements generally discharged with low frequency and commonly exhibited decreases of firing in the initiation period. The changes of rubral firing prior to the motor activity, correlated to the RTs, suggest a command function for the RN, in the triggering of the conditioned motor response.

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Correspondence to Dr. A. Schmied.

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Supported by the CNRS (LA 89) and the DGRST (DN P111)

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Amalric, M., Condé, H., Dormont, J.F. et al. Cat red nucleus changes of activity during the motor initiation in a reaction time task. Exp Brain Res 52, 210–218 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00236629

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Key words

  • Red nucleus
  • Motor initiation
  • Reaction time
  • Single unit recording