Dynamic Sculpting of Directional Tuning in the Primate Motor Cortex during Three-Dimensional Reaching

In the present study, we investigated how directional tuning of putative pyramidal cells is sharpened by inhibition from neighboring interneurons. First, different functional and electrophysiological criteria were used to identify putative pyramidal and interneuronal subtypes in a large database of motor cortical cells recorded during performance of the three-dimensional center-out task. Then we analyzed the relationship between the magnitude of inhibition and the tuning width, and a significant decrease of the latter as a function of the former was found in a population of putative pyramidal cells. In fact, the coupling of inhibition with narrow tuning was observed before and during movement execution on a cell-by-cell basis, indicating an important dynamic role of inhibition during movement control. Overall, these results suggest that local inhibition is involved in sculpting the directional specificity of a group of putative pyramidal neurons in the motor cortex.