The role of the supplementary motor area in externally timed movement: the influence of predictability of movement timing

Gary Thickbroom, Michelle Byrnes, P. Sacco, Soumya Ghosh, I.T. Morris, Francis Mastaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


A significant role in the planning and preparation for voluntary movement has been ascribed to secondary motor areas located on the medial wall of the cerebral hemispheres, and in particular to the supplementary motor area (SMA). Within the SMA, rostral and caudal subdivisions have been described, and differential roles have been attributed to these regions in relation to movement planning, preparation and execution. We have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the role of the SMA in the timing of movement execution, by recording the fMRI signal from mesial pre-motor areas and primary sensorimotor cortex (SM1) during the execution of a simple motor task externally cued at predictable (regular) and unpredictable (irregular) lime intervals. The mean rate of movement was matched in both experiments. There was a greater activation of caudal than rostral SMA with both predictably and unpredictably cued movements, and a doubling of the signal when the timing of the motor response was unpredictable. Ln contrast. there was no difference in the activation of primary sensorimotor cortex with the two tasks. The data demonstrate that the caudal SMA has an important role in the execution of externally cued movements. The results also suggest a greater role for this region in the performance of unpredictably timed compared with predictably timed movements, however a model is proposed (based on electrophysiological data) which shows how the difference in functional signal in these two situations can be explained on the basis of a difference in the time course of neuronal activation in the SMA, rather than in the overall degree of activation. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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