Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The single-unit activity of 831 cells was recorded in the arm area of the motor cortex of tow monkeys while the monkeys intercepted a moving visual stimulus (interception task) or remained immobile during presentation of the same moving stimulus (no-go task). The moving target traveled on an oblique path from either lower corner of a screen toward the vertical meridian, and its movement time (0.5,1.0, or 1.5 sec) and velocity profile (accelerating, decelerating, or constant velocity) were pseudorandomly varied. The moving target had to be intercepted within 130 msec of target arrival at an interception point. By comparing motor cortical activity at the single-neuron tasks, we tested whether information about parameters of moving target is represented in the primary motor cortex to generate appropriate motor responses. A substantial number of neurons displayed modulation of their activity during the no-go task, and this activity was often affected by the stimulus parameters. These results suggest a role of motor cortex in specifying the timing of movement initiation based on information about target motion. In addition, there was a lack of systematic relation between the onset times of neural activity in the interception and no-go task, suggesting that processing of information concerning target motion and generation of hand movement occurs in parallel. Finally, the activity in the most motor cortical neurons was modulated according to an estimate of the time-to-target interception, raising the possibility that time-to-interception may be coded in the motor cortical activity.