The mesial agranular frontal cortex that lies rostral to area 4 (F1) is formed by two distinct cytoarchitectonic areas: F3, located caudally, and F6, located rostrally. In the present experiments we investigated the organization of F3 and F6 by observing the motor responses evoked by their intracortical electrical microstimulation. Our main purpose was to find out whether the cytoarchitectonic subdivision of the mesial agranular frontal cortex into two areas has a physiological counterpart.
The result showed that F3 (the caudal area) contains a complete motor representation with hindlimb movements located caudally, forelimb movements located centrally, and orofacial movements located rostrally. The great majority of limb movements involved proximal joints. With respect to F1, F3 showed the following functional characteristics: (1) lack of segregation between proximal and distal movements, (2) larger percentage of complex movements, and (3) higher excitability threshold.
Movements were more difficult to elicit from F6 (the rostral area) than from F3. However, by using a longer stimulus train duration (100 ms) 39.3% of tested sites produced body movements. This percentage increased (50.5%) when the electrical stimulation was applied during monkey natural movements instead of when the monkey was still in its chair. Most of the evoked movements concerned the forelimb. More rarely, neck and upper face movements were observed. Unlike F1 and F3 where most movements were fast, slow movements were frequently observed with stimulation of F6. Many of them mimicked natural movements of the animal. Eye movements were evoked from F7 (superior area 6) but not from F6.
An additional motor representation was found in the dorsocaudal part of area 24 (24d). This area is topographically organized with a forelimb representation located caudally and ventrally and a hindlimb representation located rostrally and dorsally. The excitability threshold of area 24d is higher than that of F1 and F3. Evoked movements were occasionally observed also after stimulation of area 24c.
In conclusion, on the mesial cortical wall rostral to F1, there are at least three independent motor representations. On the basis of somatotopic organization and excitability properties, we propose that the term supplementary motor area (SMA-proper) should be reserved to F3.