Large-Scale Organization of Preferred Directions in the Motor Cortex. I. Motor Cortical Hyperacuity for Forward Reaching

We used statistical methods for spherical density estimation to evaluate the distribution of preferred directions of motor cortical cells recorded from monkeys making reaching movements in 3D space. We found that this distribution, although broad enough to represent the entire 3D continuum of reaching directions, exhibited an enrichment for reaching forward from the body and, to a lesser degree, for reaching backward toward the body. The distribution of preferred directions of cells in the motor cortex may have important implications for motor cortical function and for the decoding of arm trajectories from population activity.