Characterization of torque-related activity in primary motor cortex during a multijoint postural task

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;97(4):2887-99. doi: 10.1152/jn.00757.2006. Epub 2007 Jan 31.


The present study examined neural activity in the shoulder/elbow region of primary motor cortex (M1) during a whole-limb postural task. By selectively imposing torques at the shoulder, elbow, or both joints we addressed how neurons represent changes in torque at a single joint, multiple joints, and their interrelation. We observed that similar proportions of neurons reflected changes in torque at the shoulder, elbow, and both joints and these neurons were highly intermingled across the cortical surface. Most torque-related neurons were reciprocally excited and inhibited (relative to their unloaded baseline activity) by opposing flexor and extensor torques at a single joint. Although coexcitation/coinhibition was occasionally observed at a single joint, it was rarely observed at both joints. A second analysis assessed the relationship between single-joint and multijoint activity. In contrast to our previous observations, we found that neither linear nor vector summation of single-joint activities could capture the breadth of neural responses to multijoint torques. Finally, we studied the neurons' directional tuning across all the torque conditions, i.e., in joint-torque space. Our population of M1 neurons exhibited a strong bimodal distribution of preferred-torque directions (PTDs) that was biased toward shoulder-extensor/elbow-flexor (whole-limb flexor) and shoulder-flexor/elbow-extensor (whole-limb extensor) torques. Notably, we recently observed a similar bimodal distribution of PTDs in a sample of proximal arm muscles. This observation illustrates the intimate relationship between M1 and the motor periphery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Elbow Joint / innervation
  • Elbow Joint / physiology
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography
  • Joints / innervation*
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / innervation
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology