Prior information in motor and premotor cortex: activity during the delay period and effect on pre-movement activity

J Neurophysiol. 2000 Aug;84(2):986-1005. doi: 10.1152/jn.2000.84.2.986.


In instructed-delay (ID) tasks, instructional cues provide prior information about the nature of a movement to execute after a delay. Neuronal responses in dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) during the instructed-delay period (IDP) between the CUE and subsequent GO signals are presumed to reflect early planning stages initiated by the prior information. In contrast, in multiple-choice reaction-time (RT) tasks, all motor planning and execution processes must occur after the GO signal. These assumptions predict that neuronal planning correlates recorded during the IDP of ID trials should share common features with early post-GO activity in RT trials, and that those response components need not be recapitulated after the GO signal of ID trials. These two predictions were tested by comparing activity recorded in RT and ID tasks from 503 neurons in PMd and caudal (MIc) and rostral (MIr) primary motor cortex. The incidence and strength of directionally tuned IDP activity declined progressively from PMd to MIc. The directional tuning of activity during the IDP of ID trials was more similar to that in the reaction-time epoch (RTE) of RT trials than after movement onset, especially in PMd. A modulation of post-GO activity was often observed between RT and ID trials and was confined mainly to the RTE. This effect was also most prominent in PMd. The most common change was a reduction in intensity of short-latency phasic responses to the GO signal between RT and ID trials, especially in PMd cells with a short-latency phasic response to CUE signals. However, the largest group of cells in each area showed no large change in peak RTE activity between RT and ID trials, whether they were active in the IDP or not. Since early phasic CUE-related responses are least likely to be recapitulated after the GO signal in ID trials, they may be a neuronal correlate of an early planning stage such as response selection. Tonic IDP responses, which are not as strongly associated with a post-GO reduction in activity, may be related to other aspects of motor planning and preparation. Finally, a major component of the movement-related activity in both MI and PMd is not susceptible to modification by prior information and is indivisibly coupled temporally to movement execution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology