A New Perspective on Predictive Motor Signaling

Curr Biol. 2018 Mar 5;28(5):R232-R243. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.033.


Adaptive behavior relies on complex neural processing in multiple interacting networks of both motor and sensory systems. One such interaction employs intrinsic neuronal signals, so-called 'corollary discharge' or 'efference copy', that may be used to predict the sensory consequences of a specific behavioral action, thereby enabling self-generated (reafferent) sensory information and extrinsic (exafferent) sensory inflow to be dissociated. Here, by using well-established examples, we seek to identify the distinguishing features of corollary discharge and efference copy within the framework of predictive motor-to-sensory system coordination. We then extend the more general concept of predictive signaling by showing how neural replicas of a particular motor command not only inform sensory pathways in order to gate reafferent stimulation, but can also be used to directly coordinate distinct and otherwise independent behaviors to the original motor task. Moreover, this motor-to-motor pairing may additionally extend to a gating of sensory input to either or both of the coupled systems. The employment of predictive internal signaling in such motor systems coupling and remote sensory input control thus adds to our understanding of how an organism's central nervous system is able to coordinate the activity of multiple and generally disparate motor and sensory circuits in the production of effective behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways*
  • Amphibians / physiology
  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology
  • Diptera / physiology
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Primates / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance*