We attempted to analyze the nature of premovement activity of neurons in medial motor areas [supplementary motor area (SMA) and pre-SMA] from a perspective of coding multiple movements. Monkeys were trained to perform a series of two movements with an intervening delay: supination or pronation with either forearm. Movements were initially instructed with visual signals but had to be remembered thereafter. Although a well-known type of premovement activity representing the forthcoming movements was found in the two areas, we found an unexpected type of activity that represented a second-next movement before initiating the first of the two movements. Typically in the pre-SMA, such activity selective for the second-next movement peaked before the initiation of the first movement, decayed thereafter, and remained low in magnitude while initiating the second movement. This type of activity may tentatively hold information for the second movement while initiating the first. That information may be fed into another group of neurons that themselves build a preparatory activity required to plan the second movements. Alternatively, the activity could serve as a signal to inhibit a premature exertion of the motor command for the second movement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas