Common neural substrate for processing depth and direction signals for reaching in the monkey medial posterior parietal cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Jun;24(6):1645-57. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht021. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Many psychophysical studies suggest that target depth and direction during reaches are processed independently, but the neurophysiological support to this view is so far limited. Here, we investigated the representation of reach depth and direction by single neurons in area V6A of the medial posterior parietal cortex (PPC) of macaques, while a fixation-to-reach task in 3-dimensional (3D) space was performed. We found that, in a substantial percentage of V6A neurons, depth and direction signals jointly influenced fixation, planning, and arm movement-related activity. While target depth and direction were equally encoded during fixation, depth tuning became stronger during arm movement planning, execution, and target holding. The spatial tuning of fixation activity was often maintained across epochs, and depth tuning persisted more than directional tuning across epochs. These findings support for the first time the existence of a common neural substrate for the encoding of target depth and direction during reaches in the PPC. Present results also highlight the presence of several types of V6A cells that process independently or jointly signals about eye position and arm movement planning and execution in order to control reaches in 3D space. A conceptual framework for the processing of depth and direction for reaching is proposed.

Keywords: eye–hand coordination; reach; sensorimotor; vergence; version.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*