Postural Representations of the Hand in the Primate Sensorimotor Cortex

Neuron. 2019 Dec 4;104(5):1000-1009.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.09.004. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Manual dexterity requires proprioceptive feedback about the state of the hand. To date, study of the neural basis of proprioception in the cortex has focused primarily on reaching movements to the exclusion of hand-specific behaviors such as grasping. To fill this gap, we record both time-varying hand kinematics and neural activity evoked in somatosensory and motor cortices as monkeys grasp a variety of objects. We find that neurons in the somatosensory cortex, as well as in the motor cortex, preferentially track time-varying postures of multi-joint combinations spanning the entire hand. This contrasts with neural responses during reaching movements, which preferentially track time-varying movement kinematics of the arm, such as velocity and speed of the limb, rather than its time-varying postural configuration. These results suggest different representations of arm and hand movements suited to the different functional roles of these two effectors.

Keywords: cortex; grasp; hand; motor; neural coding; proprioception; somatosensory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*