We determined the encoding properties of single cells and the decoding accuracy of cell populations in the medial premotor cortex (MPC) of Rhesus monkeys to represent in a time-varying fashion the duration and serial order of six intervals produced rhythmically during a synchronization-continuation tapping task. We found that MPC represented the temporal and sequential structure of rhythmic movements by activating small ensembles of neurons that encoded the duration or the serial order in rapid succession, so that the pattern of active neurons changed dramatically within each interval. Interestingly, the width of the encoding or decoding function for serial order increased as a function of duration. Finally, we found that the strength of correlation in spontaneous activity of the individual cells varied as a function of the timing of their recruitment. These results demonstrate the existence of dynamic representations in MPC for the duration and serial order of intervals produced rhythmically and suggest that this dynamic code depends on ensembles of interconnected neurons that provide a strong synaptic drive to the next ensemble in a consecutive chain of neural events.
Keywords: medial premotor cortex; neural dynamics; sequential processing; temporal processing.
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