Distinct neural circuits for control of movement vs. Holding still

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In generating a point-to-point movement, the brain does more than produce the transient commands needed to move the body part; it also produces the sustained commands that are needed to hold the body part at its destination. In the oculomotor system, these functions are mapped onto two distinct circuits: a premotor circuit that specializes in generating the transient activity that displaces the eyes and a “neural integrator” that transforms that transient input into sustained activity that holds the eyes. Different parts of the cerebellum adaptively control the motor commands during these two phases: the oculomotor vermis participates in fine tuning the transient neural signals that move the eyes, monitoring the activity of the premotor circuit via efference copy, whereas the flocculus participates in controlling the sustained neural signals that hold the eyes, monitoring the activity of the neural integrator. Here, I review the oculomotor literature and then ask whether this separation of control between moving and holding is a design principle that may be shared with other modalities of movement. To answer this question, I consider neurophysiological and psychophysical data in various species during control of head movements, arm movements, and locomotion, focusing on the brain stem, motor cortex, and hippocampus, respectively. The review of the data raises the possibility that across modalities of motor control, circuits that are responsible for producing commands that change the sensory state of a body part are distinct from those that produce commands that maintain that sensory state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1460
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Brain stem
  • Cerebellum
  • Motor cortex
  • Reaching
  • Saccades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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