Developing models of the dynamic and complex patterns of information processing that take place during behavior is a major thrust of systems neuroscience. An underlying assumption of many models is that the same set of rules applies across different conditions. This has been the case for directional tuning during volitional movement; a single cosine function has been remarkably robust for describing the encoding of movement direction in different types of neurons, in many locations of the nervous system, and even across species. However, detailed examination of the tuning time course in motor cortex suggests that direction coding may be labile. Here, we show that there are discrete time epochs within single reaches, between which individual neurons change their tuning. Our findings suggest that motor cortical activity patterns may reflect consistent changes in the state of the control system during center-out reaching. These transitions are likely linked to different behavioral components, suggesting that the task defines changes in the operational structure of the control system.