Recent evidence of population coding in motor cortex has led some researchers to claim that certain variables such as hand direction or force may be coded within a Cartesian coordinate system with respect to extra personal space. These claims are based on the ability to predict the rectangular coordinates of hand movement direction using a “population vector” computed from multiple cells' firing rates. I show here that such a population vector can always be found given a very general set of assumptions. Therefore the existence of a population vector constitutes only weak support for the explicit use of a particular coordinate representation by motor cortex.

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