Coherent neural representation of hand speed in humans revealed by MEG imaging

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 1;104(18):7676-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0609632104. Epub 2007 Apr 18.


The spiking activity of single neurons in the primate motor cortex is correlated with various limb movement parameters, including velocity. Recent findings obtained using local field potentials suggest that hand speed may also be encoded in the summed activity of neuronal populations. At this macroscopic level, the motor cortex has also been shown to display synchronized rhythmic activity modulated by motor behavior. Yet whether and how neural oscillations might be related to limb speed control is still poorly understood. Here, we applied magnetoencephalography (MEG) source imaging to the ongoing brain activity in subjects performing a continuous visuomotor (VM) task. We used coherence and phase synchronization to investigate the coupling between the estimated activity throughout the brain and the simultaneously recorded instantaneous hand speed. We found significant phase locking between slow (2- to 5-Hz) oscillatory activity in the contralateral primary motor cortex and time-varying hand speed. In addition, we report long-range task-related coupling between primary motor cortex and multiple brain regions in the same frequency band. The detected large-scale VM network spans several cortical and subcortical areas, including structures of the frontoparietal circuit and the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathway. These findings suggest a role for slow coherent oscillations in mediating neural representations of hand kinematics in humans and provide further support for the putative role of long-range neural synchronization in large-scale VM integration. Our findings are discussed in the context of corticomotor communication, distributed motor encoding, and possible implications for brain-machine interfaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Time Factors