Predicting movement from multiunit activity

Eran Stark, Moshe Abeles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that intracortical activity can be used to operate prosthetic devices such as an artificial limb. Previously used neuronal signals were either the activity of tens to hundreds of spiking neurons, which are difficult to record for long periods of time, or local field potentials, which are highly correlated with each other. Here, we show that by estimating multiunit activity (MUA), the superimposed activity of many neurons around a microelectrode, and using a small number of electrodes, an accurate prediction of the upcoming movement is obtained. Compared with single-unit spikes, single MUA recordings are obtained more easily and the recordings are more stable over time. Compared with local field potentials, pairs of MUA recordings are considerably less redundant. Compared with any other intracortical signal, single MUA recordings are more informative. MUA is informative even in the absence of spikes. By combining information from multielectrode recordings from the motor cortices of monkeys that performed either discrete prehension or continuous tracing movements, we demonstrate that predictions based on multichannel MUA are superior to those based on either spikes or local field potentials. These results demonstrate that considerable information is retained in the superimposed activity of multiple neurons, and therefore suggest that neurons within the same locality process similar information. They also illustrate that complex movements can be predicted using relatively simple signal processing without the detection of spikes and, thus, hold the potential to greatly expedite the development of motor-cortical prosthetic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8387-8394
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number31
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Decoding
  • Extracellular recordings
  • Local field potentials
  • Macaque monkey
  • Prehension
  • Premotor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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