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Decisions about actions typically involve a period of deliberation that ends with the commitment to a choice and the motor processes overtly expressing that choice. Previous studies have shown that neural activity in sensorimotor areas, including the primary motor cortex (M1), correlates with deliberation features during action selection. Yet, the causal contribution of these areas to the decision process remains unclear. Here, we investigated whether M1 determines choice commitment, or whether it simply reflects decision signals coming from upstream structures and instead mainly contributes to the motor processes that follow commitment. To do so, we tested the impact of a disruption of M1 activity, induced by continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS), on the behavior of human subjects in (1) a simple reaction time (SRT) task allowing us to estimate the duration of the motor processes and (2) a modified version of the tokens task (Cisek et al., 2009), which allowed us to estimate subjects' time of commitment as well as accuracy criterion. The efficiency of cTBS was attested by a reduction in motor evoked potential amplitudes following M1 disruption, as compared to those following a sham stimulation. Furthermore, M1 cTBS lengthened SRTs, indicating that motor processes were perturbed by the intervention. Importantly, all of the behavioral results in the tokens task were similar following M1 disruption and sham stimulation, suggesting that the contribution of M1 to the deliberation process is potentially negligible. Taken together, these findings favor the view that M1 contribution is downstream of the decision process.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of neurophysiology
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