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J Neurophysiol. 2001 Jun;85(6):2576-89.

On the relationship between joint angular velocity and motor cortical discharge during reaching.

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The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


Single-unit activity in area M1 was recorded in awake, behaving monkeys during a three-dimensional (3D) reaching task performed in a virtual reality environment. This study compares motor cortical discharge rate to both the hand's velocity and the arm's joint angular velocities. Hand velocity is considered a parameter of extrinsic space because it is measured in the Cartesian coordinate system of the monkey's workspace. Joint angular velocity is considered a parameter of intrinsic space because it is measured relative to adjacent arm/body segments. In the initial analysis, velocity was measured as the difference in hand position or joint posture between the beginning and ending of the reach. Cortical discharge rate was taken as the mean activity between these two times. This discharge rate was compared through a regression analysis to either an extrinsic-coordinate model based on the three components of hand velocity or to an intrinsic-coordinate model based on seven joint angular velocities. The model showed that velocities about four degrees-of-freedom (elbow flexion/extension, shoulder flexion/extension, shoulder internal/external rotation, and shoulder adduction/abduction) were those best represented in the sampled population of recorded activity. Patterns of activity recorded across the cortical population at each point in time throughout the task were used in a second analysis to predict the temporal profiles of joint angular velocity and hand velocity. The population of cortical units from area M1 matched the hand velocity and three of the four major joint angular velocities. However, shoulder adduction/abduction could not be predicted even though individual cells showed good correlation to movement on this axis. This was also the only major degree-of-freedom not well correlated to hand velocity, suggesting that the other apparent relations between joint angular velocity and neuronal activity may be due to intrinsic-extrinsic correlations inherent in reaching movements.

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