Primary motor cortical activity during unimanual movements with increasing demand on precision

Deborah A. Barany, Kate Pirog Revill, Alexandra Caliban, Isabelle Vernon, Ashwin Shukla, K. Sathian, Cathrin M. Buetefisch

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13 Scopus citations


Barany DA, Revill KP, Caliban A, Vernon I, Shukla A, Sathian K, Buetefisch CM. Primary motor cortical activity during unimanual movements with increasing demand on precision. JNeurophysiol124: 728–739, 2020. First published July 29, 2020; doi:10.1152/jn. 00546.2019.—In functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, performance of unilateral hand movements is associated with primary motor cortex activity ipsilateral to the moving hand (M1ipsi), in addition to contralateral activity (M1contra). The magnitude of M1ipsi activity increases with the demand on precision of the task. However, it is unclear how demand-dependent increases in M1ipsi recruitment relate to the control of hand movements. To address this question, we used fMRI to measure blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activity during performance of a task that varied in demand on precision. Participants (n = 23) manipulated an MRI-compatible joystick with their right or left hand to move a cursor into targets of different sizes (small, medium, large, extra large). Performance accuracy, movement time, and number of velocity peaks scaled with target size, whereas reaction time, maximum velocity, and initial direction error did not. In the univariate analysis, BOLD activation in M1contra and M1ipsi was higher for movements to smaller targets. Representational similarity analysis, corrected for mean activity differences, revealed multivoxel BOLD activity patterns during movements to small targets were most similar to those for medium targets and least similar to those for extra-large targets. Only models that varied with demand (target size, performance accuracy, and number of velocity peaks) correlated with the BOLD dissimilarity patterns, though differently for right and left hands. Across individuals, M1contra and M1ipsi similarity patterns correlated with each other. Together, these results suggest that increasing demand on precision in a unimanual motor task increases M1 activity and modulates M1 activity patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-739
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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