The roles of monkey M1 neuron classes in movement preparation and execution

Matthew T Kaufman, Mark M Churchland, Krishna V Shenoy


The motor cortices exhibit substantial activity while preparing movements, yet the arm remains still during preparation. We investigated whether a subpopulation of presumed inhibitory neurons in primary motor cortex (M1) might be involved in 'gating' motor output during preparation, while permitting output during movement. This hypothesis predicts a release of inhibition just before movement onset. In data from M1 of two monkeys, we did not find evidence for this hypothesis: few neurons exhibited a clear pause during movement, and these were at the tail end of a broad distribution. We then identified a subpopulation likely to be enriched for inhibitory interneurons, using their waveform shapes. We found that the firing rates of this subpopulation tended to increase during movement, instead of decreasing as predicted by the M1 gating model. No clear subset that might implement an inhibitory gate was observed. Together with previous evidence against upstream inhibitory mechanisms in premotor cortex, this provides evidence against an inhibitory 'gate' for motor output in cortex. Instead, it appears that some other mechanism must likely exist.

  • motor
  • interneurons
  • pyramidal cells
  • cell type
  • gating