Purkinje cells signal hand shape and grasp force during reach-to-grasp in the monkey

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The cerebellar cortex and nuclei play important roles in the learning, planning, and execution of reach-to-grasp and prehensile movements. However, few studies have investigated the signals carried by cerebellar neurons during reach-to-grasp, particularly signals relating to target object properties, hand shape, and grasp force. In this study, the simple spike discharge of 77 Purkinje cells was recorded as two rhesus monkeys reached and grasped 16 objects. The objects varied systematically in volume, shape, and orientation and each was grasped at five different force levels. Linear multiple regression analyses showed the simple spike discharge was significantly modulated in relation to objects and force levels. Object related modulation occurred preferentially during reach or early in the grasp and was linearly related to grasp aperture. The simple spike discharge was positively correlated with grasp force during both the reach and the grasp. There was no significant interaction between object and grasp force modulation, supporting previous kinematic findings that grasp kinematics and force are signaled independently. Singular value decomposition (SVD) was used to quantify the temporal patterns in the simple spike discharge. Most cells had a predominant discharge pattern that remained relatively constant across object grasp dimensions and force levels. A single predominant simple spike discharge pattern that spans reach and grasp and accounts for most of the variation (>60%) is consistent with the concept that the cerebellum is involved with synergies underlying prehension. Therefore Purkinje cells are involved with the signaling of prehension, providing independent signals for hand shaping and grasp force.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-158
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

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