Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Humans demonstrate an amazing ability for intercepting and catching moving targets, most noticeably in fast-speed ball games. However, the few studies exploring the neural bases of interception in humans and the classical studies on visual motion processing and visuomotor interactions have reported rather long latencies of cortical activations that cannot explain the performances observed in most natural interceptive actions. The aim of our experiment was twofold: (1) describe the spatio-temporal unfolding of cortical activations involved in catching a moving target and (2) provide evidence that fast cortical responses can be elicited by a visuomotor task with high temporal constraints and decide if these responses are task or stimulus dependent. Neuromagnetic brain activity was recorded with whole-head coverage while subjects were asked to catch a free-falling ball or simply pay attention to the ball trajectory. A fast, likely stimulus-dependent, propagation of neural activity was observed along the dorsal visual pathway in both tasks. Evaluation of latencies of activations in the main cortical regions involved in the tasks revealed that this entire network of regions was activated within 40 msec. Moreover, comparison of experimental conditions revealed similar patterns of activation except in contralateral sensorimotor regions where common and catch-specific activations were differentiated.