The organization of behavioral repertoire in motor cortex

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

281 Scopus citations


Motor cortex in the primate brain was once thought to contain a simple map of the body's muscles. Recent evidence suggests, however, that it operates at a radically more complex level, coordinating behaviorally useful actions. Specific subregions of motor cortex may emphasize different ethologically relevant categories of behavior, such as interactions between the hand and the mouth, reaching motions, or defensive maneuvers to protect the body surface from impending impact. Single neurons in motor cortex may contribute to these behaviors by means of their broad tuning to idiosyncratic, multijoint actions. The mapping from cortex to muscles is not fixed, as was once thought, but instead is fluid, changing continuously on the basis of feedback in a manner that could support the control of higher-order movement parameters. These findings suggest that the motor cortex participates directly in organizing and controlling the animal's behavioral repertoire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Neuroscience
EditorsSteven Hyman, Thomas Jessell, Charles Stevens
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2006

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Neuroscience
ISSN (Print)0147-006X

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Avoidance
  • Grasping
  • Locomotion
  • Microstimulation
  • Reaching


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