Single-cell activity was examined in digital areas of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) of monkeys performing sensorially triggered and self-initiated digital movements with the aim of rigorously determining the relative timing of onset of the neuronal activity with respect to movement onset. The activity of prime mover muscles for execution of a key-press movement was recorded simultaneously with the neuronal activity; movement onset was defined as the onset of muscle activity. Neuronal receptive fields were also identified. The following findings emerged from this study: (1) Few neurons, if any, in the SI(areas 3b, 1, 2), including pyramidal tract neurons, were active prior to movement onset. (2) The movement-related activity of SI neurons was basically similar in cases of signal-triggered and self-initiated movement. (3) No neuron in the SI showed activity associated with ipsilateral digital movement. (4) A majority of movement-related neurons in the precentral motor cortex, in contrast, started their activity before movement onset. These findings suggest that SI neuronal activity participates little in providing information necessary for developing motor responses in the initial phase of simple digital movements.
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