Partially Mixed Selectivity in Human Posterior Parietal Association Cortex

Neuron. 2017 Aug 2;95(3):697-708.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.06.040. Epub 2017 Jul 20.


To clarify the organization of motor representations in posterior parietal cortex, we test how three motor variables (body side, body part, cognitive strategy) are coded in the human anterior intraparietal cortex. All tested movements were encoded, arguing against strict anatomical segregation of effectors. Single units coded for diverse conjunctions of variables, with different dimensions anatomically overlapping. Consistent with recent studies, neurons encoding body parts exhibited mixed selectivity. This mixed selectivity resulted in largely orthogonal coding of body parts, which "functionally segregate" the effector responses despite the high degree of anatomical overlap. Body side and strategy were not coded in a mixed manner as effector determined their organization. Mixed coding of some variables over others, what we term "partially mixed coding," argues that the type of functional encoding depends on the compared dimensions. This structure is advantageous for neuroprosthetics, allowing a single array to decode movements of a large extent of the body.

Keywords: Mixed selectivity; anterior intraparietal cortex; brain-machine interfaces; functional segregation; motor imagery; posterior parietal cortex; spinal cord injury.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology