Unilateral forelimb sensorimotor cortex devascularization disrupts the topographic and kinematic characteristics of hand movements while string-pulling for food in the rat
Abstract String-pulling by the rat is a bimanual act, in which an upright animal retrieves a piece of food attached to the end of the string by downward hand-over-hand movements. The present study compared the movements of string-pulling, using topographic and kinematic measures of hand movement, in control rats and rats with unilateral sensorimotor motor cortex lesion produced by removal of the pia matter. In the first week following devascularization, the rhythmicity and accuracy of string-pulling movements decomposed; however, thereafter the rhythm of bilateral alternation was restored. Over 70days of testing, distance traveled decreased for both hands in the control and lesion groups, suggesting that both groups displayed an increase in string-pulling efficiency. Nevertheless, the lesion group exhibited more missed string contacts with the (contralateral-to-lesion) hand and more grasps in which the string was hooked between the digits with both hands. In addition, an increase in mouth grasps was observed in the lesion group. Motion capture analyses revealed that the lesion group exhibited longer reach and withdraw movements and these movements were longer for the ipsilateral-to-lesion vs contralateral-to-lesion hand. Thus, although rhythmicity of string-pulling behavior recovers after sensorimotor cortex devascularization, the contralateral-to-lesion hand contributed less to string pulling and requires mouth grasps to stabilize the string for grasping. The results are discussed in relation to contemporary theories of the contributions of the forelimb motor cortex to skilled movement and the potential use of string-pulling as a therapy for brain injury. Highlights String pulling is a highly organized manipulatory scale movement. Sensorimotor cortex devascularization produces persistent disruptions this organization. The pattern of disruptions is consistent with impaired direction and distance estimation.
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