Population coding of conditional probability distributions in dorsal premotor cortex

Nat Commun. 2018 May 3;9(1):1788. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04062-6.


Our bodies and the environment constrain our movements. For example, when our arm is fully outstretched, we cannot extend it further. More generally, the distribution of possible movements is conditioned on the state of our bodies in the environment, which is constantly changing. However, little is known about how the brain represents such distributions, and uses them in movement planning. Here, we record from dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) and primary motor cortex (M1) while monkeys reach to randomly placed targets. The hand's position within the workspace creates probability distributions of possible upcoming targets, which affect movement trajectories and latencies. PMd, but not M1, neurons have increased activity when the monkey's hand position makes it likely the upcoming movement will be in the neurons' preferred directions. Across the population, PMd activity represents probability distributions of individual upcoming reaches, which depend on rapidly changing information about the body's state in the environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Hand
  • Haplorhini
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Probability*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*