Rapid Automatic Motor Encoding of Competing Reach Options

Jason P. Gallivan, Brandie M. Stewart, Lee A. Baugh, Daniel M. Wolpert, J. Randall Flanagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Mounting neural evidence suggests that, in situations in which there are multiple potential targets for action, the brain prepares, in parallel, competing movements associated with these targets, prior to implementing one of them. Central to this interpretation is the idea that competing viewed targets, prior to selection, are rapidly and automatically transformed into corresponding motor representations. Here, by applying target-specific, gradual visuomotor rotations and dissociating, unbeknownst to participants, the visual direction of potential targets from the direction of the movements required to reach the same targets, we provide direct evidence for this provocative idea. Our results offer strong empirical support for theories suggesting that competing action options are automatically represented in terms of the movements required to attain them. The rapid motor encoding of potential targets may support the fast optimization of motor costs under conditions of target uncertainty and allow the motor system to inform decisions about target selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1619-1626
Number of pages8
JournalCell Reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 14 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • action
  • decision making
  • motor planning
  • parallel encoding
  • reaching
  • sensorimotor
  • visuomotor adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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