Behavior relies on continuous influx of sensory information about the body and the environment. In primates, cortex integrates somatic feedback to accurately reach and manipulate objects. Yet, in many experimental regimes motor cortex seems paradoxically to operate as a feedforward, rather than feedback-driven, system. Here, we recorded simultaneously from motor and somatosensory cortex as monkeys performed a naturalistic reaching and object interaction behavior. We studied how unexpected feedback from behavioral errors influences cortical dynamics. Motor cortex generally exhibited robust feedforward dynamics, yet displayed feedback-driven dynamics surrounding correction of behavioral errors. We then decomposed motor cortical activity into orthogonal subspaces capturing communication with somatosensory cortex or behavior-generating dynamics. During error correction, the communication subspace became feedback-driven, while the behavioral subspace maintained feedforward dynamics. We therefore demonstrate that cortical activity is compartmentalized within distinct subspaces that shape the population dynamics, enabling flexible integration of salient inputs with ongoing activity for robust behavior.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience