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A V Hill Lecture - The cortex and the hand of the primate: a special relationship

Mon 26 February

Department of Chemistry

The A V Hill lecture by Professor Roger Lemon, Sobell Chair of Neurophysiology, Institute of Neurology, University College London.

The fourth talk in a series of lectures organised by the Cambridge Philosophical Society in the Lent Term 2018.

Abstract: AV Hill’s paramount interest was of course in muscle function. Sherrington famously coined the phrase ‘To move things is all that mankind can do ... for such the sole executant is muscle, whether in whispering a syllable or in felling a forest”. The close relationship between the cerebral cortex and movements of the hand is underlined by the presence of descending corticospinal fibres with direct cortico-motoneuronal (CM) connections, first described by Sherrington, that are particularly strong to the motoneurons supplying the thumb muscles. There is also a close relationship established by rapid somatosensory feedback pathways that brings tactile information from the glabrous skin of the hand to bear on motor cortex output neurons. This special sensorimotor relationship is of particular importance for skilled use of the hand as it engages in an enormous variety of technological and cultural activities, including tool manufacture and use. Although a motor cortex and corticospinal tract are highly conserved features of all mammalian brains, there are major species differences in the organisation of the cortex and its corticospinal projection. I shall discuss a number of interrelated features exhibited by the primate corticospinal system, which give some clues as to how a number of different functions might be mediated. The cortical control of the hand in the primate is particularly vulnerable to neurological disease, including stroke and spinal injury. In some forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the pattern of muscle weakness and wasting closely follows the distribution of CM projections, suggesting that such forms are a primate-specific disease that may be spread through CM connections.

Cost: Free

Ages: 16+

Enquiries and booking

No need to book.

Open to all who are interested, no booking required. Entrance is free to all our Cambridge Philosophical Society Lectures. For further information please contact the Executive Secretary or visit the Society's website

Enquiries: Beverley Larner Website Email: philosoc@hermes.cam.ac.uk Telephone: 01223 334743


All times

Mon 26 February 6:00PM - 7:00PM


Entrance to the lecture theatre is opposite the Scott Polar Research Building, off Lensfield Road

Address: Department of Chemistry
Bristol Myers-Squibb Lecture Theatre
Lensfield Road
Telephone: +44 1223 336300
Fax: +44 1223 336362