Reaching movements in the real world have typically a direction and a depth component. Despite numerous behavioral studies, there is no consensus on whether reach coordinates are processed in separate or common visuomotor channels. Furthermore, the neural substrates of reach depth in parietal cortex have been ignored in most neurophysiological studies. In the medial posterior parietal area V6A, we recently demonstrated the strong presence of depth signals and the extensive convergence of depth and direction information on single neurons during all phases of a fixate-to-reach task in 3-dimensional (3D) space. Using the same task, in the present work we examined the processing of direction and depth information in area PEc of the caudal superior parietal lobule (SPL) in three Macaca fascicularis monkeys. Across the task, depth and direction had a similar, high incidence of modulatory effect. The effect of direction was stronger than depth during the initial fixation period. As the task progressed toward arm movement execution, depth tuning became more prominent than directional tuning and the number of cells modulated by both depth and direction increased significantly. Neurons tuned by depth showed a small bias for far peripersonal space. Cells with directional modulations were more frequently tuned toward contralateral spatial locations, but ipsilateral space was also represented. These findings, combined with results from neighboring areas V6A and PE, support a rostral-to-caudal gradient of overlapping representations for reach depth and direction in SPL. These findings also support a progressive change from visuospatial (vergence angle) to somatomotor representations of 3D space in SPL.
Keywords: distance; eye-hand coordination; reaching; sensorimotor; vergence.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.