Place Cell-Like Activity in the Primary Sensorimotor and Premotor Cortex During Monkey Whole-Body Navigation
Primary motor (M1), primary somatosensory (S1) and dorsal premotor (PMd) cortical areas of rhesus monkeys previously have been associated only with sensorimotor control of limb movements. Here we show that a signifcant number of neurons in these areas also represent body position and orientation in space. Two rhesus monkeys (K and M) used a wheelchair controlled by a brain-machine interface (BMI) to navigate in a room. During this whole-body navigation, the discharge rates of M1, S1, and PMd neurons correlated with the two-dimensional (2D) room position and the direction of the wheelchair and the monkey head. This place cell-like activity was observed in both monkeys, with 44.6% and 33.3% of neurons encoding room position in monkeys K and M, respectively, and the overlapping populations of 41.0% and 16.0% neurons encoding head direction. These observations suggest that primary sensorimotor and premotor cortical areas in primates are likely involved in allocentrically representing body position in space during whole-body navigation, which is an unexpected fnding given the classical hierarchical model of cortical processing that attributes functional specialization for spatial processing to the hippocampal formation.