Individual Movement Variability Magnitudes Are Explained by Cortical Neural Variability Academic Article uri icon


  • Humans exhibit considerable motor variability even across trivial reaching movements. This variability can be separated into specific kinematic components such as extent and direction, which are thought to be governed by distinct neural processes. Here, we report that individual subjects (males and females) exhibit different magnitudes of kinematic variability, which are consistent (within individual) across movements to different targets and regardless of which arm (right or left) was used to perform the movements. Simultaneous fMRI recordings revealed that the same subjects also exhibited different magnitudes of fMRI variability across movements in a variety of motor system areas. These fMRI variability magnitudes were also consistent across movements to different targets when performed with either arm. Cortical fMRI variability in the posterior-parietal cortex of individual subjects explained their movement-extent variability. This relationship was apparent only in posterior-parietal cortex and not in other motor system areas, thereby suggesting that individuals with more variable movement preparation exhibit larger kinematic variability. We, therefore, propose that neural and kinematic variability are reliable and interrelated individual characteristics that may predispose individual subjects to exhibit distinct motor capabilities. Significance Statement: Neural activity and movement kinematics are remarkably variable. While this intertrial variability is mostly over looked, here we demonstrate that individual human subjects exhibit distinct magnitudes of neural and kinematic variability, which are stable across movements to different targets and when performing these movements with either arm. Furthermore, when examining the relationship between cortical variability and movement variability, we find that cortical fMRI variability in the parietal cortex of individual subjects explained their movement extent variability. Hence, we were able to explain why some subjects performed more variable movements than others based on their cortical variability magnitudes.

publication date

  • September 13, 2017