Single cell studies of the primate putamen
The major goal of this study was to determine whether the activity of single cells in the primate putamen was better related to the direction of limb movement or to the underlying pattern of muscular activity. In addition, the neural responses to load application were studied in order to determine whether the same neurons were also responsive to somatosensory stimuli. Two rhesus monkeys were trained to perform a visuomotor arm tracking task which required elbow flexion/extension movements with assisting and opposing loads in order to dissociate the direction of elbow movement from the pattern of muscular activity required for the movement. Neurons in the putamen were selected for study only if they were related both to the task and to arm movements outside the task. Most (96%) of the cells studied responded to load application: 36% of these showed short-latency(< 50 ms), “sensory” responses. Forty-four percent of neurons had significant relations to the level of static load as the animal held the arm stationary against the steady loads: in general, static load effects were relatively weak. During the elbow flexion/extension movements in the task, 76% of cells had significant relations to the direction of movement, and 52% of neurons had significant dynamic relations to the level of load. Half of all neurons studied were primarily related to the direction of movement independent of the load. Only thirteen percent of cells in the putamen had a pattern of activity similar to that of muscles. These results indicate that neuronal activity in the putamen is predominantly related to the direction of limb movement rather than to the activity of particular muscles and that the basal ganglia may play a role in the specification of parameters of movement independent of the activity of specific muscles. These results also indicate that the basal ganglia receive proprioceptive input which may be used in the control of ongoing movement.