Research Article

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 203, Issue 2, pp 271-283

First online:

Measuring the motor output of the pontomedullary reticular formation in the monkey: do stimulus-triggered averaging and stimulus trains produce comparable results in the upper limbs?

  • Wendy J. HerbertAffiliated withDivision of Physical Therapy, School of Allied Medical Professions, The Ohio State University
  • , Adam G. DavidsonAffiliated withNeuroscience Graduate Studies Program, The Ohio State UniversityDepartment of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • , John A. BufordAffiliated withDivision of Physical Therapy, School of Allied Medical Professions, The Ohio State UniversityNeuroscience Graduate Studies Program, The Ohio State UniversityCenter for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair, The Ohio State University Email author 

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The pontomedullary reticular formation (PMRF) of the monkey produces motor outputs to both upper limbs. EMG effects evoked from stimulus-triggered averaging (StimulusTA) were compared with effects from stimulus trains to determine whether both stimulation methods produced comparable results. Flexor and extensor muscles of scapulothoracic, shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints were studied bilaterally in two male M. fascicularis monkeys trained to perform a bilateral reaching task. The frequency of facilitation versus suppression responses evoked in the muscles was compared between methods. Stimulus trains were more efficient (94% of PMRF sites) in producing responses than StimulusTA (55%), and stimulus trains evoked responses from more muscles per site than from StimulusTA. Facilitation (72%) was more common from stimulus trains than StimulusTA (39%). In the overall results, a bilateral reciprocal activation pattern of ipsilateral flexor and contralateral extensor facilitation was evident for StimulusTA and stimulus trains. When the comparison was restricted to cases where both methods produced a response in a given muscle from the same site, agreement was very high, at 80%. For the remaining 20%, discrepancies were accounted for mainly by facilitation from stimulus trains when StimulusTA produced suppression, which was in agreement with the under-representation of suppression in the stimulus train data as a whole. To the extent that the stimulus train method may favor transmission through polysynaptic pathways, these results suggest that polysynaptic pathways from the PMRF more often produce facilitation in muscles that would typically demonstrate suppression with StimulusTA.


Reticulospinal Electromyography Electrical stimulation Reaching Macaque