Visuomotor processing as reflected in the directional discharge of premotor and primary motor cortex neurons.
ABSTRACT Premotor and primary motor cortical neuronal firing was studied in two monkeys during an instructed delay, pursuit tracking task. The task included a premovement "cue period," during which the target was presented at the periphery of the workspace and moved to the center of the workspace along one of eight directions at one of four constant speeds. The "track period" consisted of a visually guided, error-constrained arm movement during which the animal tracked the target as it moved from the central start box along a line to the opposite periphery of the workspace. Behaviorally, the animals tracked the required directions and speeds with highly constrained trajectories. The eye movements consisted of saccades to the target at the onset of the cue period, followed by smooth pursuit intermingled with saccades throughout the cue and track periods. Initially, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test for direction and period effects in the firing. Subsequently, a linear regression analysis was used to fit the average firing from the cue and track periods to a cosine model. Directional tuning as determined by a significant fit to the cosine model was a prominent feature of the discharge during both the cue and track periods. However, the directional tuning of the firing of a single cell was not always constant across the cue and track periods. Approximately one-half of the neurons had differences in their preferred directions (PDs) of >45 degrees between cue and track periods. The PD in the cue or track period was not dependent on the target speed. A second linear regression analysis based on calculation of the preferred direction in 20-ms bins (i.e., the PD trajectory) was used to examine on a finer time scale the temporal evolution of this change in directional tuning. The PD trajectories in the cue period were not straight but instead rotated over the workspace to align with the track period PD. Both clockwise and counterclockwise rotations occurred. The PD trajectories were relatively straight during most of the track period. The rotation and eventual convergence of the PD trajectories in the cue period to the preferred direction of the track period may reflect the transformation of visual information into motor commands. The widely dispersed PD trajectories in the cue period would allow targets to be detected over a wide spatial aperture. The convergence of the PD trajectories occurring at the cue-track transition may serve as a "Go" signal to move that was not explicitly supplied by the paradigm. Furthermore, the rotation and convergence of the PD trajectories may provide a mechanism for nonstandard mapping. Standard mapping refers to a sensorimotor transformation in which the stimulus is the object of the reach. Nonstandard mapping is the mapping of an arbitrary stimulus into an arbitrary movement. The shifts in the PD may allow relevant visual information from any direction to be transformed into an appropriate movement direction, providing a neural substrate for nonstandard stimulus-response mappings.
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ABSTRACT: How neurons in the primary motor cortex control arm movements is not yet understood. Here we show that the equations of motion governing reaching simplify when expressed in spatial coordinates. In this fixed reference frame, joint torques are the sums of vector cross products between the spatial positions of limb segments and their spatial accelerations and velocities. The consequences that follow from this model explain many properties of neurons in the motor cortex, including directional broad, cosine-like tuning, non-uniformly distributed preferred directions dependent on the workspace, and the rotation of the population vector during arm movements. Remarkably, the torques can be directly computed as a linearly weighted sum of responses from cortical motor neurons, and the muscle tensions can be obtained as rectified linear sums of the joint torques. This allows the required muscle tensions to be computed rapidly from a trajectory in space with a feedforward network model.Journal of Neurophysiology 10/2012; · 3.30 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The caudal dentate nucleus (DN) in lateral cerebellum is connected with two visual/oculomotor areas of the cerebrum, the frontal eye field (FEF) and lateral intraparietal (LIP) cortex. Many neurons in FEF and LIP produce "delay activity" between stimulus and response that correlates with processes such as motor planning. Our hypothesis was that caudal DN neurons would have prominent delay activity as well. From lesion studies, we predicted that this activity would be related to self-timing, i.e. the triggering of saccades based on the internal monitoring of time. We recorded from neurons in the caudal DN of monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that made delayed saccades with or without a self-timing requirement. Most (84%) of the caudal DN neurons had delay activity. These neurons conveyed at least three types of information. First, their activity was often correlated, trial-by-trial, with saccade initiation. Correlations were found more frequently in a task that required self-timing of saccades (53% of neurons) than in a task that did not (27% of neurons). Second, the delay activity was often tuned for saccade direction (in 65% of neurons). This tuning emerged continuously during a trial. Third, the time course of delay activity associated with self-timed saccades differed significantly from that associated with visually-guided saccades (in 71% of neurons). A minority of neurons had sensory-related activity. None had presaccadic bursts, in contrast to DN neurons recorded more rostrally. We conclude that caudal DN neurons convey saccade-related delay activity that may contribute to the motor preparation of when and where to move.Journal of Neurophysiology 01/2013; · 3.30 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Neural circuits must perform computations and then selectively output the results to other circuits. Yet synapses do not change radically at millisecond timescales. A key question then is: how is communication between neural circuits controlled? In motor control, brain areas directly involved in driving movement are active well before movement begins. Muscle activity is some readout of neural activity, yet it remains largely unchanged during preparation. Here we find that during preparation, while the monkey holds still, changes in motor cortical activity cancel out at the level of these population readouts. Motor cortex can thereby prepare the movement without prematurely causing it. Further, we found evidence that this mechanism also operates in dorsal premotor cortex, largely accounting for how preparatory activity is attenuated in primary motor cortex. Selective use of 'output-null' vs. 'output-potent' patterns of activity may thus help control communication to the muscles and between these brain areas.Nature Neuroscience 02/2014; · 15.25 Impact Factor