Abstract | Uncertainty leads to persistent effects on reach representations in dorsal premotor cortex

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Uncertainty leads to persistent effects on reach representations in dorsal premotor cortex

Abstract

Affiliation details

McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University, United States; Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, United States; Northwestern University, United States

Every movement we make represents one of many possible actions. In reaching tasks with multiple targets, dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) appears to represent all possible actions simultaneously. However, in many situations we are not presented with explicit choices. Instead, we must estimate the best action based on noisy information and execute it while still uncertain of our choice. Here we asked how both primary motor cortex (M1) and PMd represented reach direction during a task in which a monkey made reaches based on noisy, uncertain target information. We found that with increased uncertainty, neurons in PMd actually enhanced their representation of unlikely movements throughout both planning and execution. The magnitude of this effect was highly variable across sessions, and was correlated with a measure of the monkeys’ behavioral uncertainty. These effects were not present in M1. Our findings suggest that PMd represents and maintains a full distribution of potentially correct actions.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.14316.001