Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The posterior parietal cortex is involved in the visuomotor transformations occurring during arm-reaching movements. The medial posterior parietal area V6A has been shown to be implicated in reaching execution, but its role in reaching preparation has not been sufficiently investigated. Here, we addressed this issue exploring the neural correlates of reaching preparation in V6A. Neural activity of single cells during the instructed delay period of a foveated Reaching task was compared with the activity in the same delay period during a Detection task. In this latter task, animals fixated the target but, instead of performing an arm reaching movement, they responded with a button release to the go signal. Targets were allocated in different positions in 3-D space. We found three types of neurons: cells where delay activity was equally spatially tuned in the two tasks (Gaze cells), cells spatially tuned only during reaching preparation (Set cells), and cells influenced by both gaze and reaching preparation signals (Gaze/Set cells). In cells influenced by reaching preparation, the delay activity in the Reaching task could be higher or lower compared with the Detection task. All the Set cells and a minority of Gaze/Set cells were more active during reaching preparation. Most cells modulated by movement preparation were also modulated with a congruent spatial tuning during movement execution. Present results highlight the convergence of visuospatial information, reach planning and reach execution signals on V6A, and indicate that visuospatial processing and movement execution have a larger influence on V6A activity than the encoding of reach plans.