A new neural framework for visuospatial processing

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Apr;12(4):217-30. doi: 10.1038/nrn3008.


The division of cortical visual processing into distinct dorsal and ventral streams is a key framework that has guided visual neuroscience. The characterization of the ventral stream as a 'What' pathway is relatively uncontroversial, but the nature of dorsal stream processing is less clear. Originally proposed as mediating spatial perception ('Where'), more recent accounts suggest it primarily serves non-conscious visually guided action ('How'). Here, we identify three pathways emerging from the dorsal stream that consist of projections to the prefrontal and premotor cortices, and a major projection to the medial temporal lobe that courses both directly and indirectly through the posterior cingulate and retrosplenial cortices. These three pathways support both conscious and non-conscious visuospatial processing, including spatial working memory, visually guided action and navigation, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Consciousness / physiology
  • Humans
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*