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By Author: Anton Bluman
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A classic brain map gets an update

The traditional view of how the human brain controls voluntary movement might not tell the whole story.

The motor homunculus, a diagram of the primary motor cortex, has reigned supreme in neuroscience since the 1930s. It shows how this narrow brain region is divided into sections, each assigned to a body part that can be controlled voluntarily. The space each part spans on the motor cortex is proportional to how much control one has over that part.


A new map reveals that in addition to having regions devoted to specific body parts, three newfound areas control integrative, whole-body actions. And representations of where specific body parts fall on this map are organized differently than previously thought, researchers report in the May 11 Nature.

For decades, research in monkeys has hinted that something about the classic view was amiss. Scientists conducting this research "have known for 50 years that the homunculus isn't quite right," says Evan Gordon, a neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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