Decoding effector-dependent and effector-independent movement intentions from human parieto-frontal brain activity

Jason P. Gallivan, D. Adam McLean, Fraser W. Smith, Jody C. Culham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


Our present understanding of the neural mechanisms and sensorimotor transformations that govern the planning of arm and eye movements predominantly come from invasive parieto-frontal neural recordings in nonhuman primates. While functional MRI (fMRI) has motivated investigations on much of these same issues in humans, the highly distributed and multiplexed organization of parieto-frontal neurons necessarily constrain the types of intention-related signals that can be detected with traditional fMRI analysis techniques. Here we employed multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), a multivariate technique sensitive to spatially distributed fMRI patterns, to provide a more detailed understanding of how hand and eye movement plans are coded in human parieto-frontal cortex. Subjects performed an event-related delayed movement task requiring that a reach or saccade be planned and executed toward one of two spatial target positions. We show with MVPA that, even in the absence of signal amplitude differences, the fMRI spatial activity patterns preceding movement onset are predictive of upcoming reaches and saccades and their intended directions. Within certain parieto-frontal regions we show that these predictive activity patterns reflect a similar spatial target representation for the hand and eye. Within some of the same regions, we further demonstrate that these preparatory spatial signals can be discriminated from nonspatial, effector-specific signals. In contrast to the largely graded effector- and direction-related planning responses found with fMRI subtraction methods, these results reveal considerable consensus with the parieto-frontal network organization suggested from primate neurophysiology and specifically show how predictive spatial and nonspatial movement information coexists within single human parieto-frontal areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17149-17168
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2011

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