Task-Relevant Information Modulates Primary Motor Cortex Activity Before Movement Onset

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C. B. Calderon et al.

Calderon, C.B. et al. (2018) Task-Relevant Information Modulates Primary Motor Cortex Activity Before Movement Onset.Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,Volume 12, Article 93.

Monkey neurophysiology research supports the affordance competition hypothesis (ACH) proposing that cognitive information useful for action selection is integrated in sensorimotor areas. In this view, action selection would emerge from the simultaneous representation of competing action plans, in parallel biased by relevant task factors.
This biased competition would take place up to primary motor cortex (M1). Although ACH is plausible in environments  ffording choices between actions, its relevance for human decision making is less clear. To address this issue, we designed an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment modeled after monkey neurophysiology studies in which human participants processed cues conveying predictive information about upcoming button presses. Our results demonstrate that, as predicted by the ACH, predictive information (i.e., the relevant task factor) biases activity of primary motor regions. Specifically, first, activity before movement onset in contralateral M1 increases as the competition is biased in favor of a specific button press relative to activity in ipsilateral M1. Second, motor regions were more tightly coupled with fronto-parietal regions when competition between potential actions was high, again suggesting that motor regions are also part of the biased competition network. Our findings support the idea that action planning dynamics as proposed in the ACH are valid both in human and non-human primates.
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Frontiers in Human Neuroscience