Functional imaging studies show that motor imagery activates multiple structures in the human forebrain. We now show that phantom movements in an amputee and imagined movements in intact individuals elicit responses from neurons in several human thalamic nuclei. These include the somatic sensory nucleus receiving input from the periphery (ventral caudal), and the motor nuclei receiving input from the cerebellum [ventral intermediate (Vim)] and the basal ganglia [ventral oral posterior (Vop)]. Seven neurons in the amputee showed phantom movement-related activity (three Vim, two Vop, and two ventral caudal). In addition, seven neurons in a group of three controls showed motor imagery-related activity (four Vim and three Vop). These studies were performed during single neuron recording sessions in patients undergoing therapeutic treatment of phantom pain, tremor, and chronic pain conditions by thalamic stimulation. The activity of neurons in these sensory and motor nuclei, respectively, may encode the expected sensory consequences and the dynamics of planned movements.
- Motor control
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