Mapping of the preferred direction in the motor cortex

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - 2007-06-26Georgopoulos AP, Merchant H, Naselaris T, Amirikian B10.1073/pnas.0611597104
Directional tuning is a basic functional property of cell activity in the motor cortex. Previous work has indicated that cells with similar preferred directions are organized in columns perpendicular to the cortical surface. Here we show that these columns are organized in an orderly fashion in the tangential dimension on the cortical surface. Based on a large number of microelectrode penetrations and systematic exploration of the proximal arm area of the motor cortex while monkeys made free reaching 3D movements, it was estimated that (i) directional minicolumns are ≈30 μm in width, (ii) minicolumns with similar preferred directions tend to occur in doublets or triplets, and (iii) such minicolumns tend to repeat every ≈240 μm (estimated width of a column), with intermediate preferred directions represented in a gradient. These findings provide evidence for an orderly mapping of the preferred direction in the motor cortex.