Reorganization between preparatory and movement population responses in motor cortex

Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 27:7:13239. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13239.


Neural populations can change the computation they perform on very short timescales. Although such flexibility is common, the underlying computational strategies at the population level remain unknown. To address this gap, we examined population responses in motor cortex during reach preparation and movement. We found that there exist exclusive and orthogonal population-level subspaces dedicated to preparatory and movement computations. This orthogonality yielded a reorganization in response correlations: the set of neurons with shared response properties changed completely between preparation and movement. Thus, the same neural population acts, at different times, as two separate circuits with very different properties. This finding is not predicted by existing motor cortical models, which predict overlapping preparation-related and movement-related subspaces. Despite orthogonality, responses in the preparatory subspace were lawfully related to subsequent responses in the movement subspace. These results reveal a population-level strategy for performing separate but linked computations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement