Automatic avoidance of obstacles is a dorsal stream function: evidence from optic ataxia

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Jul;7(7):779-84. doi: 10.1038/nn1273. Epub 2004 Jun 20.


When we reach out to pick something up, our arm is directed to the target by visuomotor networks in the cortical dorsal stream. However, our reach trajectories are influenced also by nontarget objects, which might be construed as potential obstacles. We tested two patients with bilateral dorsal-stream (parietal lesions, both of whom were impaired at pointing to visual stimuli (optic ataxia). We asked them to reach between two cylinders, which varied in location from trial to trial. We found that the patients' reaches remained invariant with changes in obstacle location. In a control task when they were asked to point midway between the two objects, however, their responses shifted in an orderly fashion. We conclude that the dorsal stream provides the visual guidance we automatically build into our movements to avoid potential obstacles, as well as that required to ensure arrival at the target.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Ataxia / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*