Cortical motor control

R. Chris Miall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


The localization of motor functions within the cerebral cortex has a long history, dating back to the demonstration in 1870 by Fritsch and Hitzig that weak electrical stimulation of the cortex of the dog could evoke movements of the contralateral limbs. At about the same time, Hughlings Jackson made careful clinical observations of the convolutions of epileptic patients, including his own wife. Epileptics often have a spasm of the muscles that may spread sequentially from, for example, the fingers up the arm to the shoulder. Hughlings Jackson realized that the March of the seizures along the limb (Jacksonian March) might reflect some physiological event sweeping across a topographical map of the body within the brain. These ideas were later confirmed by experiments, initially on dogs and monkeys, in which the cortex was stimulated with brief electric shocks. In 1906, Sherrington showed that movements could be evoked most easily from an area now known as the primary motor cortex, and this finding was extended by Penfield in the 1950s, who demonstrated during brain surgery on epileptic patients that the body was topographically mapped on the surface of the human motor cortex (Fig. 37.1). More recently, the unknown events that Hughlings Jackson predicted were shown to be waves of neuronal activation which spread across this topographical map.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Basic to Clinical
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781461419976
ISBN (Print)1461419964, 9781461419969
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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