Motor cortical activity during drawing movements: Population representation during spiral tracing

Daniel W. Moran, Andrew B. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Monkeys traced spirals on a planar surface as unitary activity was recorded from either premotor or primary motor cortex. Using the population vector algorithm, the hand's trajectory could be accurately visualized with the cortical activity throughout the task. The time interval between this prediction and the corresponding movement varied linearly with the instantaneous radius of curvature; the prediction interval was longer when the path of the finger was more curved (smaller radius). The intervals in the premotor cortex fell into two groups, whereas those in the primary motor cortex formed a single group. This suggests that the change in prediction interval is a property of a single population in primary motor cortex, with the possibility that this outcome is due to the different properties generated by the simultaneous action of separate subpopulations in premotor cortex. Electromyographic (EMG) activity and joint kinematics were also measured in this task. These parameters varied harmonically throughout the task with many of the same characteristics as those of single cortical cells. Neither the lags between joint-angular velocities and hand velocity nor the lags between EMG and hand velocity could explain the changes in prediction interval between cortical activity and hand velocity. The simple spatial and temporal relationship between cortical activity and finger trajectory suggests that the figural aspects of this task are major components of cortical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2693-2704
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999


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