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Nat Commun. 2018 Oct 12;9(1):4233. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06560-z.

Cortical population activity within a preserved neural manifold underlies multiple motor behaviors.

Author information

1
Department of Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 303 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA. gallego.juanalvaro@gmail.com.
2
Neural and Cognitive Engineering Group, Centre for Automation and Robotics CSIC-UPM, Ctra. Campo Real km 0.2 - La Poveda, 28500, Arganda del Rey, Spain. gallego.juanalvaro@gmail.com.
3
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL, 60208, USA.
4
Département de Psychiatrie et Neurosciences, Université Laval, CERVO Research Center, 2601 Ch. de la Canardière, Québec, QC, G1J 2G3, Canada.
5
Department of Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 303 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA.
6
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 60208, USA.
7
Department of Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 303 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA. lm@northwestern.edu.
8
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL, 60208, USA. lm@northwestern.edu.
9
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA. lm@northwestern.edu.

Abstract

Populations of cortical neurons flexibly perform different functions; for the primary motor cortex (M1) this means a rich repertoire of motor behaviors. We investigate the flexibility of M1 movement control by analyzing neural population activity during a variety of skilled wrist and reach-to-grasp tasks. We compare across tasks the neural modes that capture dominant neural covariance patterns during each task. While each task requires different patterns of muscle and single unit activity, we find unexpected similarities at the neural population level: the structure and activity of the neural modes is largely preserved across tasks. Furthermore, we find two sets of neural modes with task-independent activity that capture, respectively, generic temporal features of the set of tasks and a task-independent mapping onto muscle activity. This system of flexibly combined, well-preserved neural modes may underlie the ability of M1 to learn and generate a wide-ranging behavioral repertoire.

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