The proposed research will investigate the neural basis of coordination in reach-to-grasp and feeding/chewing systems. Behaviorally we will study reaching and grasping for food, and-to-mouth feeding, ingestion, and mastication. We will then investigate how single neurons and spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity in the orofacial area of primary motor cortex (MIof), the arm area of primary motor cortex (MIa), and ventral premotor cortex (PMv) encode these behaviors. We propose to study both reach-grasp and feeding systems because by comparing cortical encoding of movement and muscle activity in the two systems we aim to identify common principles underlying cortical control of behavior in particular coordination within and between systems. The feeding and reach-to-grasp systems are especially appropriate for studies of coordination because visually guided manual food acquisition (insect predation or grasping of small fruits) is an ancient adaptive complex in primates (Roos & Martin, 2006) and mechanisms of coordination between the systems are therefore likely to be well-developed.
Nicholas Hatsopoulos, Ph.D.