Our behaviors are dictated by our intentions, but we have only recently begun to understand how the brain forms intentions to act. The posterior parietal cortex is situated between the sensory and the movement regions of the cerebral cortex and serves as a bridge from sensation to action. We have found that an anatomical map of intentions exists within this area, with one part devoted to planning eye movements and another part to planning arm movements (Andersen and Buneo 2002). The action plans exist in a cognitive form, specifying the goal of the intended movement. Current studies involve examining decision making, stages in motor planning, coordinate transformations for sensory guided movements and motion perception. In recent years we have also used the findings from these animal studies to develop brain-machine interfaces using intention signals recorded from the posterior parietal cortex of tetraplegic human participants (Aflalo et al. 2015).
Congratulations to Dr. Matiar Jafari, who completed his PhD in Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech. Matiar is in the UCLA/Caltech MD/PhD program and is currently completing his MD at UCLA.
Andersen, R.A., Aflalo, T., and Kellis, S. 2019. "From thought to action: The brain–machine interface in posterior parietal cortex" PNAS, 116(52), pp. 26274–26279.<PDF version>