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Volitional Control of Neural Activity Relies on the Natural Motor Repertoire

Hwang, Eun Jung and Bailey, Paul M. and Andersen, Richard A. (2013) Volitional Control of Neural Activity Relies on the Natural Motor Repertoire. Current Biology, 23 (5). pp. 353-361. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC3633426. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.027.

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Background: The results from recent brain-machine interface (BMI) studies suggest that it may be more efficient to use simple arbitrary relationships between individual neuron activity and BMI movements than the complex relationship observed between neuron activity and natural movements. This idea is based on the assumption that individual neurons can be conditioned independently regardless of their natural movement association. Results: We tested this assumption in the parietal reach region (PRR), an important candidate area for BMIs in which neurons encode the target location for reaching movements. Monkeys could learn to elicit arbitrarily assigned activity patterns, but the seemingly arbitrary patterns always belonged to the response set for natural reaching movements. Moreover, neurons that are free from conditioning showed correlated responses with the conditioned neurons as if they encoded common reach targets. Thus, learning was accomplished by finding reach targets (intrinsic variable of PRR neurons) for which the natural response of reach planning could approximate the arbitrary patterns. Conclusions: Our results suggest that animals learn to volitionally control single-neuron activity in PRR by preferentially exploring and exploiting their natural movement repertoire. Thus, for optimal performance, BMIs utilizing neural signals in PRR should harness, not disregard, the activity patterns in the natural sensorimotor repertoire.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Andersen, Richard A.0000-0002-7947-0472
Additional Information:© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Received: March 26, 2012; revised: December 3, 2012; accepted: January 9, 2013; published: February 14, 2013. This work was supported by NIH grant EY013337 and DARPA award N66001-10-C-2009. E.J.H. was supported by NIH Research Service Award T32 NS007251 and Career Development Award K99 NS062894. We thank Tyson Aflalo, Steve Chase, James Bonaiuto, Chess Stetson, and Bardia Behabadi for scientific discussion; Tessa Yao for editorial assistance; Kelsie Pejsa and Nicole Sammons for animal care; and Viktor Shcherbatyuk for technical assistance.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)N66001-10-C-2009
NIHT32 NS007251
NIHK99 NS062894
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC3633426
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130221-102535069
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Eun Jung Hwang, Paul M. Bailey, Richard A. Andersen, Volitional Control of Neural Activity Relies on the Natural Motor Repertoire, Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 5, 4 March 2013, Pages 353-361, ISSN 0960-9822, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37053
Deposited On:21 Feb 2013 19:31
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:26

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