• area F4;
  • area F5;
  • mirror neurons;
  • premotor cortex;
  • primary motor cortex


The ventral agranular frontal cortex of the macaque monkey is formed by a mosaic of anatomically distinct areas. Although each area has been explored by several neurophysiological studies, most of them focused on small sectors of single areas, thus leaving to be clarified which is the general anatomo-functional organization of this wide region. To fill this gap, we studied the ventral convexity of the frontal cortex in two macaque monkeys (Macaca nemestrina) using intracortical microstimulation and extracellular recording. Functional data were then matched with the cytoarchitectonic parcellation of the recorded region. The results demonstrated the existence of a dorso-ventral functional border, encompassing the anatomical boundary between areas F4 and F1, and a rostro-caudal anatomo-functional border between areas F5 and F4. The ventral subdivision of areas F4 and F1 was highly electrically excitable, represented simple mouth movements and lacked visual properties; in contrast, their dorsal counterpart showed a higher stimulation threshold, represented forelimb and mouth motor acts and hosted different types of visual properties. The data also showed that area F5 was scarcely excitable, and displayed various motor specificity (e.g. for the type of grip) and complex visual (i.e. mirror responses) properties. Overall, the posterior areas F4 and F1 appear to be involved in organizing and controlling goal-directed mouth motor acts and simple movements within different parts of the external (dorsal sector) and internal (ventral sector) space, whereas area F5 code motor acts at a more abstract level, thus enabling the emergence of higher order socio-cognitive functions.