Feedforward and feedback processes in motor control

Neuroimage. 2004 Aug;22(4):1775-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.05.003.


In this study, we utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine which brain regions contribute to feedback and feedforward motor control processes. Several studies have investigated the contributions of cortical and subcortical brain regions to motor performance by independently varying factors such as movement rate, force, and speed, and observing the neural responses. Such studies have contributed greatly to our understanding of neural coding of movement variables. Under natural movement conditions, however, these factors interact in a complex manner to produce differing performance levels. In the current investigation, we induced performance changes in a less constrained way, by having subjects move a joystick to hit targets of differing sizes on an LCD screen. These parametric changes in target size resulted in the well-known speed-accuracy tradeoff effect, allowing us to examine the brain regions responsive to global shifts in motor performance levels. That is, movements made to larger targets relied more on feedforward control whereas movements made to smaller targets relied more on feedback control. Using functional MRI, we identified two sets of brain regions in which activation was modulated with task difficulty. Areas exhibiting activation that was positively correlated with increasing target size included primary motor cortex, premotor cortex, and the basal ganglia, regions that are typically classified as playing a role in force control and movement planning. Brain regions whose activation was negatively correlated with increasing target size included the ipsilateral sensorimotor cortex, multiple cerebellar regions, and the thalamus. These areas contributed to motor performance under higher levels of task difficulty. The results elucidate cortical and subcortical brain regions that are responsive to global shifts in motor performance, reflecting changes along the continuum of feedforward and feedback motor control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Size Perception / physiology