Perspectives on classical controversies about the motor cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2017 Sep 1;118(3):1828-1848. doi: 10.1152/jn.00795.2016. Epub 2017 Jun 14.


Primary motor cortex has been studied for more than a century, yet a consensus on its functional contribution to movement control is still out of reach. In particular, there remains controversy as to the level of control produced by motor cortex ("low-level" movement dynamics vs. "high-level" movement kinematics) and the role of sensory feedback. In this review, we present different perspectives on the two following questions: What does activity in motor cortex reflect? and How do planned motor commands interact with incoming sensory feedback during movement? The four authors each present their independent views on how they think the primary motor cortex (M1) controls movement. At the end, we present a dialogue in which the authors synthesize their views and suggest possibilities for moving the field forward. While there is not yet a consensus on the role of M1 or sensory feedback in the control of upper limb movements, such dialogues are essential to take us closer to one.

Keywords: motor control; movement dynamics; movement kinematics; primary motor cortex; sensory feedback.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement

Grants and funding