Structure of population activity in primary motor cortex for single finger flexion and extension
Journal of Neuroscience
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Copyright © 2020 the authors How is the primary motor cortex (M1) organized to control fine finger movements? We investigated the population activity in M1 for single finger flexion and extension, using 7T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in female and male human participants and compared these results to the neural spiking patterns recorded in two male monkeys performing the identical task. fMRI activity patterns were distinct for movements of different fingers, but were quite similar for flexion and extension of the same finger. In contrast, spiking patterns in monkeys were quite distinct for both fingers and directions, which is similar to what was found for muscular activity patterns. The discrepancy between fMRI and electrophysiological measurements can be explained by two (non-mutually exclusive) characteristics of the organization of finger flexion and extension movements. Given that fMRI reflects predominantly input and recurrent activity, the results can be explained by an architecture in which neural populations that control flexion or extension of the same finger produce distinct outputs, but interact tightly with each other and receive similar inputs. Additionally, neurons tuned to different movement directions for the same finger (or combination of fingers) may cluster closely together, while neurons that control different finger combinations may be more spatially separated. When measuring this organization with fMRI at a coarse spatial scale, the activity patterns for flexion and extension of the same finger would appear very similar. Overall, we suggest that the discrepancy between fMRI and electrophysiological measurements provides new insights into the general organization of fine finger movements in M1.