The role of basal ganglia output via the globus pallidus (GP) was examined in monkeys trained to make rapid arm-reaching movements to a visual target in a reaction time task. When neurons in the globus pallidus were destroyed by injection of kainic acid (KA) during task execution, contralateral arm movement times (MT) were increased significantly, with little or no change in reaction times (RT). The slowed movements were associated with a generalized depression in the amplitude and rate of rise of electromyographic (EMG) activity in all the contralateral muscles studied at the wrist, elbow, shoulder, and back, but there was no change in the sequential activation of these muscles. The most profound and persistant increases in movement time occurred when neurons were destroyed in the ventrolateral and caudal aspects of the internal as well as external pallidal segment. These results suggest a role for globus pallidus output in scaling the magnitude and/or buildup of EMG activity without affecting the initiation or the sequential organization of the programmed motor output.
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