Using a classic paper by evarts as a platform for discussing cortical control of skeletal muscle in awake, behaving primates

Aaron L. Cecala, Elizabethtown College


A growing portion of premedical curricula is being devoted to the study of physiological mechanisms underlying animal behavior. In the present article, I describe an activity centered around a classic Journal of Neurophysiology paper by Edward V. Evarts that lays the foundation for students to investigate common behavioral and physiological techniques used to study motor control in primates. Students will leave this activity being able to 1) critically assess behavioral, electromyographic,and single unit (extracellular) neurophysiological data typically acquired by behavioral neurophysiologists; 2) provide physiological evidence that the primate precentral gyrus (primary motor cortex) controls voluntary movements of the wrist; 3) intelligently discuss hypotheses concerning the role of the primary motor cortex in the generation of movement in mammalian species; and 4) discuss the ethical implications of using mammalian species as model organisms.The skills and background knowledge gained in this activity lay the platform for advanced study of scientific investigations into sensory,motor, and cognitive processes in undergraduate, graduate, or medical school curricula. © 2012 The American Physiological Society.