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Direct visuomotor transformations for reaching


The posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is thought to have a function in the sensorimotor transformations that underlie visually guided reaching, as damage to the PPC can result in difficulty reaching to visual targets in the absence of specific visual or motor deficits1. This function is supported by findings that PPC neurons in monkeys are modulated by the direction of hand movement, as well as by visual, eye position and limb position signals2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. The PPC could transform visual target locations from retinal coordinates to hand-centred coordinates by combining sensory signals in a serial manner to yield a body-centred representation of target location10,11,12, and then subtracting the body-centred location of the hand. We report here that in dorsal area 5 of the PPC, remembered target locations are coded with respect to both the eye and hand. This suggests that the PPC transforms target locations directly between these two reference frames. Data obtained in the adjacent parietal reach region (PRR) indicate that this transformation may be achieved by vectorially subtracting hand location from target location, with both locations represented in eye-centred coordinates.

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Figure 1: Visuomotor transformation schemes.
Figure 2: Responses of a single neuron from area 5.
Figure 3: Area 5 neuronal population activity for reaches to identical target locations in hand coordinates (a), body coordinates (b), eye coordinates (c), hand and body coordinates (d), and hand and eye coordinates (e).
Figure 4: Shifting and non-shifting response fields in the PPC.
Figure 5: Results from the second experiment.


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This work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Eye Institute, the Sloan-Schwartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology, the James G. Boswell Foundation and an NIH training grant fellowship to C.A.B. We thank B. Gillikin and V. Shcherbatyuk for technical assistance; D. Dubowitz for collecting and processing the MRI data; J. Baer and J. Wynne for veterinary care; and C. Reyes-Marks for administrative assistance. We also thank J. Boline and K. Shenoy for comments.

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Buneo, C., Jarvis, M., Batista, A. et al. Direct visuomotor transformations for reaching. Nature 416, 632–636 (2002).

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