Ipsilateral corticospinal projections do not predict congenital mirror movements: A case report

Verstynen, Spencer, Stinear, Konkle, Diedrichsen, Byblow, & Ivry

Congenital mirror movements (CMMs) are involuntary, symmetric movements of one hand during the production of voluntary movements with the other. CMMs have been attributed to a range of physiological mechanisms, including excessive ipsilateral projections from each motor cortex to distal extremities. We examined this hypothesis with an individual showing pronounced CMMs. Mirror movements were characterized for a set of hand muscles during a simple contraction task. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was then used to map the relative input to each muscle from both motor cortices. Contrary to our expectations, CMMs were most prominent for muscles with the strongest contralateral representation rather than in muscles that were activated by stimulation of either hemisphere. These findings support a bilateral control hypothesis whereby CMMs result from the recruitment of both motor cortices during intended unimanual movements. Consistent with this hypothesis, bilateral motor cortex activity was evident during intended unimanual movements in an fMRI study. To assess the level at which bilateral recruitment occurs, motor cortex excitability during imagined unimanual movements was assessed with TMS. Facilitory excitation was only observed in the contralateral motor cortex. Thus, the bilateral recruitment of the hemispheres for unilateral actions in individuals with CMMs appears to occur during movement execution rather than motor planning.

Verstynen, T. D., Spencer, R., Stinear, C. M., Konkle, T., Diedrichsen, J., Byblow, W. D., Ivry, R. B. (2007). Bilateral Pathways Do Not Predict Mirror Movements: A Case Report. Neuropsychologia, 45(4), 844-852.