Recent studies hypothesize that motor cortical (MC) dynamics are generated largely through its recurrent connections based on observations that MC activity exhibits rotational structure. However, behavioural and neurophysiological studies suggest that MC behaves like a feedback controller where continuous sensory feedback and interactions with other brain areas contribute substantially to MC processing. We investigated these apparently conflicting theories by building recurrent neural networks that controlled a model arm and received sensory feedback about the limb. Networks were trained to counteract perturbations to the limb and to reach towards spatial targets. Network activities and sensory feedback signals to the network exhibited rotational structure even when the recurrent connections were removed. Furthermore, neural recordings in monkeys performing similar tasks also exhibited rotational structure not only in MC but also in somatosensory cortex. Our results argue that rotational structure may reflect dynamics throughout voluntary motor circuits involved in online control of motor actions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience