Neural coding of finger and wrist movements

Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, Giuseppe Pellizzer, Andrew V. Poliakov, Marc H. Schieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Previous work has shown that single motor cortical neurons do not discharge specifically for a particular flexion-extension finger movement but instead are active with movements of different fingers. In addition, neuronal populations active with movements of different fingers overlap extensively in their spatial locations in the motor cortex. These data suggested that control of any finger movement utilizes a distributed population of neurons. In this study we applied the neuronal population vector analysis to these same data to determine (1) whether single cells are tuned in an abstract, three-dimensional (3D) instructed finger and wrist movement space with hand-like geometry and (2) whether the neuronal population encodes specific finger movements. We found that the activity of 132/176 (75%) motor cortical neurons related to finger movements was indeed tuned in this space. Moreover, the population vector computed in this space predicted well the instructed finger movement. Thus, although single neurons may be related to several disparate finger movements, and neurons related to different finger movements are intermingled throughout the hand area of the motor cortex, the neuronal population activity does specify particular finger movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by USPHS grants NS17413 (A.P.G.), NS27686 (M.H.S.), a VA Merit Review Grant (G.P.), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the American Legion Brain Sciences Chair.


  • Finger movements
  • Population vector
  • Tuning


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