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Neural Representations Of The Target (goal) Of Visually Guided Arm Movements In Three Motor Areas Of The Monkey

G. E. Alexander, M. D. Crutcher

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1. This study was designed to determine whether the supplementary motor area (SMA), the primary motor cortex (MC), and the putamen, all of which are components of the basal ganglia-thalamocortical “motor circuit,” contain neural representations of the target or goal of a movement, independent of specific features of the movement itself. Four rhesus monkeys were trained to perform two visuomotor delayed step-tracking tasks in which the subject used a cursor to track targets on a display screen by making flexion and extension movements of the elbow. Single-cell activity was recorded from the SMA, MC, and putamen while the monkeys performed the two tasks. In the Standard task, the cursor and the forearm moved in the same direction. The Cursor/Limb Inversion task was identical to the Standard task except that there was an inverse relationship between the directions of movement of the forearm and cursor. Together, these tasks dissociated the spatial features of the target or goal of the movement from those of the movement itself. Both tasks also included features that made it possible to distinguish neuronal activity related to the preparation for movement from that related to movement execution. A total of 554 directionally selective, task-related neurons were tested with both tasks (SMA, 207; MC, 198; putamen, 149). 2. Two types of directionally selective preparatory activity were seen in each motor area. Cells with target-dependent preparatory activity showed selective discharge prior to all preplanned movements of the cursor toward one of the side targets (right or left), irrespective of whether the limb movement involved extension or flexion of the elbow. Comparable proportions of target-dependent preparatory cells were seen in the SMA (36%), MC (40%), and putamen (38%). Cells with limb-dependent preparatory activity showed selective discharge prior to all preplanned elbow movements in a particular direction (extension or flexion), irrespective of whether the target to which the cursor was moved was located on the right or left side of the display. The SMA contained a higher proportion of limb-dependent preparatory cells (40%) than either MC (15%) or putamen (9%). 3. Two types of directionally selective movement-related activity were also seen in each motor area.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)