Dissociation of the Reach and the Grasp in the destriate (V1) monkey Helen: a new anatomy for the dual visuomotor channel theory of reaching

Research paper by Ian Q. Whishaw, Jenni M. Karl, Nicholas K. Humphrey

Indexed on: 08 Apr '16Published on: 07 Apr '16Published in: Experimental Brain Research


Dual visuomotor channel theory proposes that reaching depends on two neural pathways that extend from visual cortex (V1) to motor cortex via the parietal lobe. The Reach pathway directs the hand to the target’s location and the Grasp pathway shapes the hand and digits for purchase. Sighted human participants integrate the Reach and the Grasp, but without vision they dissociate the movements to capitalize on tactile cues. They use a Reach with a relatively open hand to locate the target and then they use touch cues to shape the fingers to Grasp. After a V1 lesion, the rhesus monkey, Helen, learned to make near-normal visual discriminations based on size and brightness but displayed visual agnosia. She also learned to reach for food with her mouth and her hands. The present analysis of film of her reaching behavior shows that she dissociated the Reach and the Grasp, as do unsighted human participants reaching for a food target at a fixed location. Her rapid and direct Reach was made with an open hand and extended fingers to contact the food with the palm whereas her Grasp was initiated after she touched the food. She also visually fixated the target during the Reach and visually disengaged after target contact, as do sighted human participants. In contrast, Helen did integrate the Reach and the Grasp to take food from her mouth, demonstrating that she could integrate the movements using online tactile cues. The finding that extrastriate pathways can direct the hand toward extrinsic target properties (location) but not intrinsic target properties (size and shape) is discussed as a novel addition to dual visuomotor channel theory.