Dynamic cortical activity in the human brain reveals motor equivalence

Nature. 1998 Apr 23;392(6678):814-8. doi: 10.1038/33922.


That animals and humans can accomplish the same goal using different effectors and different goals using the same effectors attests to the remarkable flexibility of the central nervous system. This phenomenon has been termed 'motor equivalence', an example being the writing of a name with a pencil held between the toes or teeth. The idea of motor equivalence has reappeared because single-cell studies in monkeys have shown that parameters of voluntary movement (such as direction) may be specified in the brain, relegating muscle activation to spinal interneuronal systems. Using a novel experimental paradigms and a full-head SQUID (for superconducting quantum interference device) array to record magnetic fields corresponding to ongoing brain activity, we demonstrate: (1), a robust relationship between time-dependent activity in sensorimotor cortex and movement velocity, independent of explicit task requirements; and (2) neural activations that are specific to task demands alone. It appears, therefore, that signatures of motor equivalence in humans may be found in dynamic patterns of cortical activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology