Forearm and hand muscles exhibit high coactivation and overlapping of cortical motor representations
Most of the motor mapping procedures using navigated transcranial magnetic stimualiton (nTMS) follows the conventional somatotopic organization of the primary motor cortex (M1) by assessesing the representation of a particular target muscle, disregarding the possible coactivation of synergistic muscles. In turn, multiple reports describe a functional organization of the M1 with an overlapping among motor representations acting together to execute movements. In this context, the overlap degree among cortical representations of synergistic hand and forearm muscles remains an open question. This study aimed to evaluate the muscle coactivation and representation overlapping common to the grasping movement and its dependence on the mapping parameters. The nTMS motor maps were obtained from one carpal muscle and two intrinsic hand muscles during rest. We quantified the overlappig motor maps in terms of the size (area and volume overlap degree) and topography (similarity and centroid’s Euclidian distance) parameters. We demonstrated that these muscle representations are highly overlapped and similar in shape. The overlap degrees involving the forearm muscles were significantly higher than only among the intrinsic hand muscles. Moreover, the stimulation intensity had a stronger effect on the size compared to the topography parameters. Our study contributes to a more detailed cortical motor representation towards a synergistic, functional arrangement of M1. Understanding the muscle group coactivation may provide more accurate motor maps when delineating the eloquent brain tissue during pre-surgical planning.