Distinct cortical networks for hand movement initiation and directional processing: An EEG study

Reinmar J Kobler, Elizaveta Kolesnichenko, Andreea I Sburlea, Gernot R Müller-Putz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Movement preparation and initiation have been shown to involve large scale brain networks. Recent findings suggest that movement preparation and initiation are represented in functionally distinct cortical networks. In electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings, movement initiation is reflected as a strong negative potential at medial central channels that is phase-locked to the movement onset - the movement-related cortical potential (MRCP). Movement preparation describes the process of transforming high level movement goals to low level commands. An integral part of this transformation process is directional processing (i.e., where to move). The processing of movement direction during visuomotor and oculomotor tasks is associated with medial parieto-occipital cortex (PO) activity, phase-locked to the presentation of potential movement goals. We surmised that the network generating the MRCP (movement initiation) would encode less information about movement direction than the parieto-occipital network processing movement direction. Here, we studied delta band EEG activity during center-out reaching movements (2D; 4 directions) in visuomotor and oculomotor tasks. In 15 healthy participants, we found a consistent representation of movement direction in PO 300-400 ​ms after the direction cue irrespective of the task. Despite generating the MRCP, sensorimotor areas (SM) encoded less information about the movement direction than PO. Moreover, the encoded directional information in SM was less consistent across participants and specific to the visuomotor task. In a classification approach, we could infer the four movement directions from the delta band EEG activity with moderate accuracies up to 55.9%. The accuracies for cue-aligned data were significantly higher than for movement onset-aligned data in either task, which also suggests a stronger representation of movement direction during movement preparation. Therefore, we present direct evidence that EEG delta band amplitude modulations carry information about both arm movement initiation and movement direction, and that they are represented in two distinct cortical networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117076
Early online date22 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020


  • EEG
  • Movement direction
  • Movement-related cortical potential
  • Parieto-occipital cortex
  • Sensorimotor cortex
  • Visuomotor task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology

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