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J Neurosci. 2008 Oct 15;28(42):10618-30. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3418-08.2008.

Correlations between groups of premotor neurons carry information about prehension.

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Department of Physiology, Hadassah Medical School, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.


How distinct parameters are bound together in brain activity is unknown. Combination coding by interneuronal interactions is one possibility, but, to coordinate parameters, interactions between neuronal pairs must carry information about them. To address this issue, we recorded neural activity from multiple sites in the premotor cortices of monkeys that memorized reach direction and grasp type followed by actual prehension. We found that correlations between individual spiking neurons are generally weak and carry little information about prehension. In contrast, correlations and synchronous interactions between small groups of neurons, quantified by multiunit activity (MUA), are an order of magnitude stronger. A substantial fraction of the information carried by pairwise interactions between MUAs is about combinations of reach and grasp. This contrasts with the information carried by individual neurons and individual MUAs, which is mainly about reach and/or grasp but much less about their combinations. The main contribution of pairwise interactions to the coding of reach-grasp combinations is when animals memorize prehension parameters, consistent with an internal composite representation. The informative interactions between neuronal groups may facilitate the coordination of reach and grasp into coherent prehension.

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