The human primary somatosensory cortex encodes imagined movement in the absence of sensory information

Matiar Jafari, Tyson Aflalo, Srinivas Chivukula, Spencer Sterling Kellis, Michelle Armenta Salas, Sumner Lee Norman, Kelsie Pejsa, Charles Yu Liu, Richard Alan Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Classical systems neuroscience positions primary sensory areas as early feed-forward processing stations for refining incoming sensory information. This view may oversimplify their role given extensive bi-directional connectivity with multimodal cortical and subcortical regions. Here we show that single units in human primary somatosensory cortex encode imagined reaches in a cognitive motor task, but not other sensory–motor variables such as movement plans or imagined arm position. A population reference-frame analysis demonstrates coding relative to the cued starting hand location suggesting that imagined reaching movements are encoded relative to imagined limb position. These results imply a potential role for primary somatosensory cortex in cognitive imagery, engagement during motor production in the absence of sensation or expected sensation, and suggest that somatosensory cortex can provide control signals for future neural prosthetic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number757
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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