Neural coding of movement direction in the healthy human brain

Christopher D. COWPER-SMITH, Esther Yuet Ying LAU, Carl A. HELMICK, Gail A. ESKES, David A. WESTWOOD

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Neurophysiological studies in monkeys show that activity of neurons in primary cortex (M1), pre-motor cortex (PMC), and cerebellum varies systematically with the direction of reaching movements. These neurons exhibit preferred direction tuning, where the level of neural activity is highest when movements are made in the preferred direction (PD), and gets progressively lower as movements are made at increasing degrees of offset from the PD. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation (fMRI-A) paradigm, we show that PD coding does exist in regions of the human motor system that are homologous to those observed in non-human primates. Consistent with predictions of the PD model, we show adaptation (i.e., a lower level) of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) time-course signal in M1, PMC, SMA, and cerebellum when consecutive wrist movements were made in the same direction (0° offset) relative to movements offset by 90° or 180°. The BOLD signal in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex adapted equally in all movement offset conditions, mitigating against the possibility that the present results are the consequence of differential task complexity or attention to action in each movement offset condition. Copyright © 2010 Cowper-Smith et al.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13330
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2010


Cowper-Smith, C. D., Lau, E. Y. Y., Helmick, C. A., Eskes, G. A., & Westwood, D. A. (2010). Neural coding of movement direction in the healthy human brain. PLoS One, 5(10). Retrieved from


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