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Trends Neurosci. 2013 Dec;36(12):706-16. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2013.09.004. Epub 2013 Oct 22.

Reflections on agranular architecture: predictive coding in the motor cortex.

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Department of Visual Neuroscience, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, Bath Street, London, EC1V 9EL, UK. Electronic address:


The agranular architecture of motor cortex lacks a functional interpretation. Here, we consider a 'predictive coding' account of this unique feature based on asymmetries in hierarchical cortical connections. In sensory cortex, layer 4 (the granular layer) is the target of ascending pathways. We theorise that the operation of predictive coding in the motor system (a process termed 'active inference') provides a principled rationale for the apparent recession of the ascending pathway in motor cortex. The extension of this theory to interlaminar circuitry also accounts for a sub-class of 'mirror neuron' in motor cortex--whose activity is suppressed when observing an action--explaining how predictive coding can gate hierarchical processing to switch between perception and action.

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