Temporal Analysis of Reference Frames in Parietal Cortex Area 5d during Reach Planning
The neural encoding of spatial and postural reference frames in posterior parietal cortex has traditionally been studied during fixed epochs, but the temporal evolution of these representations (or lack thereof) can provide insight into the underlying computations and functions of this region. Here we present single-unit data recorded from two rhesus macaques during a reach planning task. We found that area 5d coded the position of the hand relative to gaze before presentation of the reach target, but switched to coding the target location relative to hand position soon after target presentation. In the pretarget period the most relevant information for success in the task is the position of the hand relative to gaze; however, after target onset, the most task-relevant spatial relationship is the location of the target relative to the hand. The switch in coding suggests that population activity in area 5d may represent postural and spatial information in the reference frame that is most pertinent at each stage of the task. Moreover, although target−hand coding was dominant from soon after the reach target onset, this representation was not static but built in strength as movement onset approached, which we speculate could reflect a role for this region in building an accurate state estimate for the limb. We conclude that representations in area 5d are more flexible and dynamic than previously reported.
Additional Information© 2014 the authors. Received May 15, 2013; revised Feb. 26, 2014; accepted Feb. 28, 2014. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant EY005522. We thank Tessa Yao for editorial assistance, Kelsie Pejsa and Viktor Shcherbatyuk for technical assistance, and Igor Kagan for magnetic resonance imaging. Author contributions: L.R.B. and R.A.A. designed research; L.R.B. performed research; L.R.B. analyzed data; L.R.B. and R.A.A. wrote the paper.
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