Sensory Guidance Of Movement

January 16, 1998

In the past few years there has been an increasing recognition of the multiplicity of sensory and motor areas of the cerebral cortex. In the case of vision, for example, a large percentage of the primate cerebral cortex is devoted to processing of the visual image. One recent summary recognized thirty-one visual areas beyond the striate cortex. Some of these visual areas are closely involved in the control of movement, some are not. There has been an analogous increase in our recognition of the number of motor areas. Far less is known about the way in which sensory areas are functionally linked to motor areas. The goal of this symposium is to bring together scientists who are now making progress in understanding functional links between sensory and motor areas of the brain.

Based on current anatomical evidence, there are three major pathways which link sensory to motor areas of the cerebral cortex. One of these routes would be by way of cortico-cortical links, beginning in the primary sensory areas of the cortex, and connecting via a series of synaptic relays to motor or premotor areas. There are also two massive subcortical routes which can link sensory to motor areas of the brain. One of these involves the basal ganglia, the other the cerebellum.

This symposium will focus on current research on the structure and functions of these three pathways and their role in the sensory guidance of movement. Motor psychophysicists have made progress in characterizing the nature of movements like reaching and grasping, and how they are modified by incoming sensory information. Anatomical studies have revealed important new information about the ways in which sensory information is relayed to the basal ganglia and cerebellum. There is now a volume of scanning evidence about the activity of brain areas in humans and recordings from individual neurons in animals during sensory guided movement. The symposium will summarize much of this recent knowledge and provide a forum for suggesting new avenues for further study.

The topics covered have important implications for understanding the role of these pathways in human disease. Parkinson's Disease patients, for example, can have some amelioration of their motor symptoms if a small lesion is placed in the globus pallidus. If destroying the output of a basal ganglia circuit can improve movement, there must be alternative pathways mediating that motor control, and the possible pathways will be discussed at the meeting.

The approach of this meeting is interdisciplinary, bringing together anatomists, neurophysiologists, psychophysicists, and clinical neurologists to discuss prominent problems.

Novartis Foundation

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