Perception of relevant visual object features can be modulated by the preparation of an action toward it ("action-modulated perception"). For instance, the perception of the orientation of a book can be enhanced when preparing to grasp it (but not when pointing to it). However, the underlying neuronal mechanisms are poorly understood. We argue that brain areas controlling arm movements are involved in establishing this effect through top-down feedback to early visual areas, similar to the neuronal mechanisms linking visual attention and eye movements. To investigate this involvement, we applied transcranial magnetic stimulation to a grasping motor area, the left anterior intraparietal sulcus (aIPS), during grasping or pointing preparation. Concurrently, an orientation change detection task was performed. As a control area, the vertex was stimulated. We found that stimulation of aIPS selectively modulates orientation sensitivity during action preparation compared with control stimulation (vertex), negating the increased orientation sensitivity with grasping preparation over pointing preparation. We argue that aIPS is a critical part of the mechanism underlying perceptual modulations during action preparation. The present results and recent literature suggest that this action-modulated perception for hand movements is implemented through a cortical feedback connection between aIPS and early visual areas.
Keywords: attention; feedback; grasping; motor preparation; perception.