The ability to control our movement is something that most of us take for granted. From the swift responses required to hit a cricket ball, to the delicate and steady action of surgeon, the brain is able to control the muscles in the body in a precise and efficient way. Motor function is controlled by four major regions in the frontal lobes; the primary motor cortex, supplementary motor area (SMA), lateral premotor cortex and the cingulate motor area (shown in Figure 7.1). The primary motor cortex is responsible for the direct production of movements via it's outputs to the pyramidal tract, and damage to these areas resulting from stroke produces a weakness in the corresponding part of the body. The other three areas are responsible for higher order control of motor function.
Studies of the SMA using PET have shown that the it is involved in motor task sequencing and movement initiation , however it has more recently been suggested on the basis of animal studies that the SMA could be divided into two discrete areas; the pre-SMA and the SMA proper . The SMA proper, projecting to and receiving inputs from the primary motor cortex, it is suggested is more directly responsible for movement execution, whereas the pre-SMA, receiving inputs from the prefrontal cortex and the cingulate motor areas, might be responsible for movement decision making.
In order to test this hypothesis on humans, using fMRI, it was necessary to use an experiment that allows the elements of decision making and movement to be separated. Such an experiment would be difficult to carry out in a standard epoch based paradigm with activation lasting for a number of seconds. This would require a number of movement decision making tasks to be carried out in each epoch, and separation of the areas responsible for the execution of the movement from those responsible for the decision making would be impossible. Instead of this, single event paradigms were developed, where one movement decision task was performed every 20 seconds or so, allowing discrimination between areas activated when the decision to move was made and those activated when the decision not to move was made.
In this study the paradigm design, subject handling and data analysis and inference was carried out by Dr. Miles Humberstone .
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