Motor cortical activity in a memorized delay task

Nikolaos Smyrnis, Masato Taira, James Ashe, Apostolos P Georgopoulos

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Two rhesus monkeys were trained to move a handle on a two-dimensional (2D) working surface in directions specified by a light at the plane. They first captured with the handle a light on the center of the plane and then moved the handle in the direction indicated by a peripheral light (cue signal). The signal to move (go signal) was given by turning off the center light. The following tasks were used: (a) In the non-delay task the peripheral light was turned on at the same time as the center light went off. (b) In the memorized delay task the peripheral light stayed on for 300 ms and the center light was turned off 450-750 ms later. Finally, (c) in the non-memorized delay task the peripheral light stayed on continuously whereas the center light went off 750-1050 ms after the peripheral light came on. Recordings in the arm area of the motor cortex (N= 171 cells) showed changes in single cell activity in all tasks. In both delay tasks, the neuronal population vector calculated every 20 ms after the onset of the peripheral light pointed in the direction of the upcoming movement, which was instructed by the cue light. Moreover, the strength of the population signal showed an initial peak shortly after the cue onset in both the memorized and non-memorized delay tasks but it maintained a higher level during the memorized delay period, as compared to the non-memorized task. These results indicate that the motor cortex is involved in encoding and holding in memory directional information concerning a visually cued arm movement and that these processes can be visualized using neuronal population vector analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1992


  • Arm movement
  • Monkey
  • Motor cortex
  • Movement direction
  • Visuomotor memory


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