Multiple levels of representation of reaching in the parieto-frontal network

Alexandra Battaglia-Mayer, Roberto Caminiti, Francesco Lacquaniti, Myrka Zago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In daily life, hand and eye movements occur in different contexts. Hand movements can be made to a visual target shortly after its presentation, or after a longer delay, alternatively, they can be made to a memorized target location. In both instances, the hand can move in a visually structured scene under normal illumination, which allows visual monitoring of its trajectory, or in darkness. Across these conditions, movement can be directed to points in space already foveated, or to extrafoveal ones, thus requiring different forms of eye-hand coordination. The ability to adapt to these different contexts by providing successful answers to their demands probably resides in the high degree of flexibility of the operations that govern cognitive visuomotor behavior. The neurophysiological substrates of these processes include, among others, the context-dependent nature of neural activity, and a transitory, or task-dependent, affiliation of neurons to the assemblies underlying different forms of sensorimotor behavior. Moreover, the ability to make independent or combined eye and hand movements in the appropriate order and time sequence must reside in a process that encodes retinal-, eye- and hand-related inputs in a spatially congruent fashion. This process, in fact, requires exact knowledge of where the eye and the hand are at any given time, although we have no or little conscious experience of where they stay at any instant. How this information is reflected in the activity of cortical neurons remains a central question to understanding the mechanisms underlying the planning of eye-hand movement in the cerebral cortex. In the last 10 years, psychophysical analyses in humans, as well as neurophysiological studies in monkeys, have provided new insights on the mechanisms of different forms of oculo-manual actions. These studies have also offered preliminary hints as to the cortical substrates of eye-hand coordination. In this review, we will highlight some of the results obtained as well as some of the questions raised, focusing on the role of eye- and hand-tuning signals in cortical neural activity. This choice rests on the crucial role this information exerts in the specification of movement, and coordinate transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1022
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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