Simultaneous encoding of multiple potential reach directions in dorsal premotor cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2002 Feb;87(2):1149-54. doi: 10.1152/jn.00443.2001.


We present evidence that the primate brain can simultaneously generate discrete directional signals related to multiple alternative reaching actions before making a decision between them. A monkey performed a task in which the correct target for a reaching movement was specified during two consecutive instructed-delay periods. First, two potential targets were presented; and second, a nonspatial cue identified one of them as the correct movement target. During the first period, two directional signals coexisted in the activity of cells in dorsal premotor cortex (PMd), oriented toward the two potential targets. During the second period, one of these disappeared and the remaining signal predicted the monkey's response choice. These results suggest that, when faced with multiple salient opportunities for reaching, the primate brain performs sensorimotor transformations in parallel to begin planning several reaching movements simultaneously before selecting one for overt execution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm
  • Electrophysiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*