Moving is thought to take separate preparation and execution steps. During preparation, neural activity in primary motor and dorsal premotor cortices achieves a state specific to an upcoming action but movements are not performed until the execution phase. We investigated whether this preparatory state (more precisely, prepare-and-hold state) is required for movement execution using two complementary experiments. We compared monkeys' neural activity during delayed and nondelayed reaches and in a delayed reaching task in which the target switched locations on a small percentage of trials. Neural population activity bypassed the prepare-and-hold state both in the absence of a delay and if the wrong reach was prepared. However, the initial neural response to the target was similar across behavioral conditions. This suggests that the prepare-and-hold state can be bypassed if needed, but there is a short-latency preparatory step that is performed prior to movement even without a delay.
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