To execute voluntary movements, the central nervous system must transform the neural representation of the direction, amplitude, and velocity of the limb, represented by the activity of cortical and subcortical neurons, into signals that activate the muscles that move the limb. This task is equivalent to solving an "ill-posed" computational problem because the number of degrees of freedom of the musculoskeletal apparatus is much larger than that specified in the plan of action. Some of the mechanisms and circuitry underlying the transformation of motor plans into motor commands are described. A central feature of this transformation is a coarse map of limb postures in the premotor areas of the spinal cord. Vectorial combination of motor outputs among different areas of the spinal map may produce a large repertoire of motor behaviors.
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