Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In monkeys and humans, two functionally specialized cortical streams of visual processing emanating from V1 have been proposed: a dorsal, action-related system and a ventral, perception-related pathway. Traditionally, a separate organization of the two streams is assumed; the extent of functional interaction is unknown. After lesions of the dorsal stream in patients with optic ataxia, it has recently been shown that the ventral perception-related system might contribute to visuo-motor processing if movements rely on remembered target positions. The ventral pathway thus seemed to participate in goal-directed movements, a function that previously has been assigned exclusively to the dorsal stream. We wondered whether different types of pointing movements are controlled by switching between two separated cortical pathways or whether a variable interaction of interconnected systems should be assumed. Our study investigated two acute stroke patients with optic ataxia following lesions of the dorsal stream in a delayed pointing task. The delays ranged from 0 to 10 sec. The patients' pointing error decreased in a linear manner with the length of time. The finding suggests a gradual change between dorsal and ventral control of reaching behavior, rather than a sudden switch between two separated cortical processing streams. Although our observations with two patients require further validation, the results suggest that the ventral and dorsal systems interact closely in the sensorimotor control of reaching behavior.