Neural Basis for the Processes That Underlie Visually Guided and Internally Guided Force Control in Humans

David E. Vaillancourt*, Keith R. Thulborn, Daniel M. Corcos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Despite an intricate understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying visual and motor systems, it is not completely understood in which brain regions humans transfer visual information into motor commands. Furthermore, in the absence of visual information, the retrieval process for motor memory information remains unclear. We report an investigation where visuomotor and motor memory processes were separated from only visual and only motor activation. Subjects produced precision grip force during a functional MRI (fMRI) study that included four conditions: rest, grip force with visual feedback, grip force without visual feedback, and visual feedback only. Statistical and subtractive logic analyses segregated the functional process maps. There were three important observations. First, along with the well-established parietal and premotor cortical network, the anterior prefrontal cortex, putamen, ventral thalamus, lateral cerebellum, intermediate cerebellum, and the dentate nucleus were directly involved in the visuomotor transformation process. This activation occurred despite controlling for the visual input and motor output. Second, a detailed topographic orientation of visuomotor to motor/sensory activity was mapped for the premotor cortex, parietal cortex, and the cerebellum. Third, the retrieval of motor memory information was isolated in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, ventral prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate. The motor memory process did not extend to the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the basal ganglia. These findings provide evidence in humans for a model where a distributed network extends over cortical and subcortical regions to control the visuomotor transformation process used during visually guided tasks. In contrast, a localized network in the prefrontal cortex retrieves force output from memory during internally guided actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3330-3340
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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