Changes in the temporal pattern of primary motor cortex activity in a directional isometric force versus limb movement task

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Sep;80(3):1577-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.80.3.1577.


We recorded the activity of 75 proximal-arm-related cells in caudal primary motor cortex (MI) while a monkey generated either isometric forces or limb movements against an inertial load. The forces and movements were in eight directions in a horizontal plane. The isometric force generated at the hand increased monotonically in the direction of the target force level. The force exerted against the load in the movement task was more complex, including a transient decelerative phase during the movement as the hand approached the target. Electromyographic (EMG) activity of proximal-arm muscles reflected the task-dependent changes in dynamics, showing a ramp increase in activity during the isometric task and a reciprocal triphasic burst pattern in the movement task. A sliding 50-ms window analysis showed that the directionality of the EMG, when expressed in hand-centered spatial coordinates, remained stable throughout the isometric ramp but often showed a significant transient shift during the limb movements. Many cells in M1 showed corresponding significant changes in activity pattern and instantaneous directionality between the two tasks. This momentary dissociation of discharge from the directional kinematics of hand displacement is evidence that the activity of many single proximal-arm related M1 cells is not coupled only to the direction and velocity of hand motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Time Factors