Voluntary hand movements in humans involve the primary motor cortex (M1). A functional magnetic resonance imaging method that measures relative cerebral blood flow was used to identify a distributed, overlapping pattern of hand movement representation within the posterior precentral gyrus, which contains M1. The observed pattern resembles those reported in nonhuman primates and differs from a somatotopically organized plan typically used to portray human motor cortex organization. Finger and wrist movements activated a wide expanse of the posterior precentral gyrus, and representations for different finger movements overlapped each other and the wrist representation. Multiple sites of activation occurred in the precentral gyrus for all movements. The overlapping representations may mediate motor and cognitive functions requiring coordinated neural processing for finger and wrist actions rather than discrete control implied by somatotopic maps.
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