Differential recruitment of parietal cortex during spatial and non-spatial reach planning

The planning of goal-directed arm reaching movements is associated with activity in the dorsal parieto-frontal cortex, within which multiple regions subserve the integration of arm- and target-related sensory signals to encode a motor goal. Surprisingly, many of these regions show sustained activity during reach preparation even when target location is not specified, i.e., when a motor goal cannot be unambiguously formed. The functional role of these non-spatial preparatory signals remains unresolved. Here this process was investigated in humans by comparing reach preparatory activity in the presence or absence of information regarding upcoming target location. In order to isolate the processes specific to reaching and to control for visuospatial attentional factors, the reaching task was contrasted to a finger movement task. Functional MRI and electroencephalography (EEG) were used to characterize the spatio-temporal pattern of reach-related activity in the parieto-frontal cortex. Reach planning with advance knowledge of target location induced robust blood oxygenated level dependent and EEG responses across parietal and premotor regions contralateral to the reaching arm. In contrast, reach preparation without knowledge of target location was associated with a significant BOLD response bilaterally in the parietal cortex. Furthermore, EEG alpha- and beta-band activity was restricted to parietal scalp sites, the magnitude of the latter being correlated with reach reaction times. These results suggest an intermediate stage of sensorimotor transformations in bilateral parietal cortex when target location is not specified.

Bernier, P-M., Whittingstall, K. and Grafton, S.T.
Frontiers Human Neuroscience
Volume: 11
Number: 249
Date: May, 2017
ICB Affiliated Authors: Scott T Grafton