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Neurons in motor cortex and connected brain regions fire in anticipation of specific movements, long before movement occurs. This neural activity reflects internal processes by which the brain plans and executes volitional movements. The study of motor planning offers an opportunity to understand how the structure and dynamics of neural circuits support persistent internal states and how these states influence behavior. Recent advances in large-scale neural recordings are beginning to decipher the relationship of the dynamics of populations of neurons during motor planning and movements. New behavioral tasks in rodents, together with quantified perturbations, link dynamics in specific nodes of neural circuits to behavior. These studies reveal a neural network distributed across multiple brain regions that collectively supports motor planning. We review recent advances and highlight areas where further work is needed to achieve a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying motor planning and related cognitive processes.