Incoming Fiber Pathways to the Motor Cortex

The functions of the motor cortex are controlled mainly by nerve signals from the somatosensory system but also, to some degree, from other sensory systems such as hearing and vision. Once the sensory information is received, the motor cortex operates in association with the basal ganglia and cerebellum to excite an appropriate course of motor action. The more important incoming fiber pathways to the motor cortex are the following:

1. Subcortical fibers from adjacent regions of the cerebral cortex, especially from (a) the somatosensory areas of the parietal cortex, (b) the adjacent areas of the frontal cortex anterior to the motor cortex, and (c) the visual and auditory cortices.

2. Subcortical fibers that arrive through the corpus callosum from the opposite cerebral hemisphere. These fibers connect corresponding areas of the cortices in the two sides of the brain.

3. Somatosensory fibers that arrive directly from the ventrobasal complex of the thalamus. These relay mainly cutaneous tactile signals and joint and muscle signals from the peripheral body.

4. Tracts from the ventrolateral and ventroanterior nuclei of the thalamus, which in turn receive signals from the cerebellum and basal ganglia. These tracts provide signals that are necessary for coordination among the motor control functions of the motor cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.

5. Fibers from the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamus. These fibers control the general level of excitability of the motor cortex in the same way they control the general level of excitability of most other regions of the cerebral cortex.

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