Calvin’s paper on optimal motor preparation out on bioRXiv

Across a range of motor and cognitive tasks, cortical activity can be accurately described by low-dimensional dynamics unfolding from specific initial conditions on every trial. These “preparatory states” largely determine the subsequent evolution of both neural activity and behaviour, and their importance raises questions regarding how they are − or ought to be − set. Here, we formulate motor preparation as optimal prospective control of future movements. The solution is a form of internal control of cortical circuit dynamics, which can be implemented as a thalamo-cortical loop gated by the basal ganglia. Critically, optimal control predicts selective quenching of variability in components of preparatory population activity that have future motor consequences, but not in others. This is consistent with recent perturbation experiments performed in mice, and with our novel analysis of monkey motor cortex activity during reaching. Together, these results suggest optimal anticipatory control of movement.