The relation between the activity of cells in the motor cortex and static force has been studied extensively. Most studies have concentrated on the relation to the magnitude of force; this relation is more or less monotonic. The slope of the relation, however, shows considerable variation among different studies and seems to be inversely associated with the range of forces over which the cell activity has been studied. Cells in the motor cortex also show variation in activity with the direction of static force. When both the direction and the magnitude of static force are allowed to vary, a majority of cells show significant changes in activity with direction of force alone, an intermediate number relate to both direction and magnitude, while a small number relate purely to the magnitude. This suggests that the direction of static force can be controlled independently of its magnitude and that this directional signal is especially prominent in the motor cortex. In general, it has been more difficult to study the relations to dynamic force. There is a correlation between motor cortex cell activity and the rate of change of force. The direction of dynamic force is also an important determinant of cell activity. When both static and dynamic force output are required (for example, with arm movement in the presence of gravity) it is the dynamic signal that is most clearly reflected in motor cortex activity. The relations between motor cortex activity and static or dynamic force are not invariant, but may be modified by the behavioral context of the motor output.