Hemispheric asymmetry in memory-guided pointing during single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation of human parietal cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Dec;96(6):3016-27. doi: 10.1152/jn.00411.2006. Epub 2006 Sep 27.


Dorsal posterior parietal cortex (PPC) has been implicated through single-unit recordings, neuroimaging data, and studies of brain-damaged humans in the spatial guidance of reaching and pointing movements. The present study examines the causal effect of single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the left and right dorsal posterior parietal cortex during a memory-guided "reach-to-touch" movement task in six human subjects. Stimulation of the left parietal hemisphere significantly increased endpoint variability, independent of visual field, with no horizontal bias. In contrast, right parietal stimulation did not increase variability, but instead produced a significantly systematic leftward directional shift in pointing (contralateral to stimulation site) in both visual fields. Furthermore, the same lateralized pattern persisted with left-hand movement, suggesting that these aspects of parietal control of pointing movements are spatially fixed. To test whether the right parietal TMS shift occurs in visual or motor coordinates, we trained subjects to point correctly to optically reversed peripheral targets, viewed through a left-right Dove reversing prism. After prism adaptation, the horizontal pointing direction for a given visual target reversed, but the direction of shift during right parietal TMS did not reverse. Taken together, these data suggest that induction of a focal current reveals a hemispheric asymmetry in the early stages of the putative spatial processing in PPC. These results also suggest that a brief TMS pulse modifies the output of the right PPC in motor coordinates downstream from the adapted visuomotor reversal, rather than modifying the upstream visual coordinates of the memory representation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Visual Fields / physiology