The Role of Primary Motor Cortex: More Than Movement Execution

J Mot Behav. 2021;53(2):258-274. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2020.1738992. Epub 2020 Mar 20.


The predominant role of the primary motor cortex (M1) in motor execution is well acknowledged. However, additional roles of M1 are getting evident in humans owing to advances in noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques. This review collates such studies in humans and proposes that M1 also plays a key role in higher cognitive processes. The review commences with the studies that have investigated the nature of connectivity of M1 with other cortical regions in light of studies based on NIBS. The review then moves on to discuss the studies that have demonstrated the role of M1 in higher cognitive processes such as attention, motor learning, motor consolidation, movement inhibition, somatomotor response, and movement imagery. Overall, the purpose of the review is to highlight the additional role of M1 in motor cognition besides motor control, which remains unexplored.

Keywords: cognitive functions; motor learning; primary motor cortex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation