We examined interconnections between a portion of the prefrontal cortex and the premotor areas in the frontal lobe to provide insights into the routes by which the prefrontal cortex gains access to the primary motor cortex and the central control of movement. We placed multiple injections of one retrograde tracer in the arm area of the primary motor cortex to define the premotor areas in the frontal lobe. Then, in the same animal, we placed multiple injections of another retrograde tracer in and around the principal sulcus (Walker's area 46). This double labeling strategy enabled us to determine which premotor areas are interconnected with the prefrontal cortex.
There are three major results of this study. First, we found that five of the six premotor areas in the frontal lobe are interconnected with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Second, the major site for interactions between the prefrontal cortex and the premotor areas is the ventral premotor area. Third, the prefrontal cortex is interconnected with only a portion of the arm representation in three premotor areas (supplementary motor area, the caudal cingulate motor area on the ventral bank of the cingulate sulcus, and the dorsal premotor area), whereas it is interconnected with the entire arm representation in the ventral premotor area and the rostral cingulate motor area. These observations indicate that the output of the prefrontal cortex targets specific premotor areas and even subregions within individual premotor areas.