In higher mammals, motor timing is considered to be dictated by cerebellar control of motor cortical activity, relayed through the cerebellar-thalamo-cortical (CTC) system. Nonetheless, the way cerebellar information is integrated with motor cortical commands and affects their temporal properties remains unclear. To address this issue, we activated the CTC system in primates and found that it efficiently recruits motor cortical cells; however, the cortical response was dominated by prolonged inhibition that imposed a directional activation across the motor cortex. During task performance, cortical cells that integrated CTC information fired synchronous bursts at movement onset. These cells expressed a stronger correlation with reaction time than non-CTC cells. Thus, the excitation-inhibition interplay triggered by the CTC system facilitates transient recruitment of a cortical subnetwork at movement onset. The CTC system may shape neural firing to produce the required profile to initiate movements and thus plays a pivotal role in timing motor actions.
Year of publication
Cell report, 3(5):1275-1285