Direction of movement is encoded in the human primary motor cortex

Toxopeus, Carolien M. and de Jong, Bauke M. and Valsan, Gopal and Conway, Bernard A. and Leenders, Klaus L. and Maurits, Natasha M. (2011) Direction of movement is encoded in the human primary motor cortex. PLOS One, 6 (11). e27838. ISSN 1932-6203 (

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The present study investigated how direction of hand movement, which is a well-described parameter in cerebral organization of motor control, is incorporated in the somatotopic representation of the manual effector system in the human primary motor cortex (M1). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a manual step-tracking task we found that activation patterns related to movement in different directions were spatially disjoint within the representation area of the hand on M1. Foci of activation related to specific movement directions were segregated within the M1 hand area; activation related to direction 0 degrees (right) was located most laterally/superficially, whereas directions 180 degrees (left) and 270 degrees (down) elicited activation more medially within the hand area. Activation related to direction 90 degrees was located between the other directions. Moreover, by investigating differences between activations related to movement along the horizontal (0 degrees+180 degrees) and vertical (90 degrees+270 degrees) axis, we found that activation related to the horizontal axis was located more anterolaterally/dorsally in M1 than for the vertical axis, supporting that activations related to individual movement directions are direction- and not muscle related. Our results of spatially segregated direction-related activations in M1 are in accordance with findings of recent fMRI studies on neural encoding of direction in human M1. Our results thus provide further evidence for a direct link between direction as an organizational principle in sensorimotor transformation and movement execution coded by effector representations in M1.


Toxopeus, Carolien M., de Jong, Bauke M., Valsan, Gopal, Conway, Bernard A. ORCID logoORCID:, Leenders, Klaus L. and Maurits, Natasha M.;