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It is widely accepted that the ventral visual pathways are involved in the identification of objects and the dorsal visual pathways in the visual guidance of reaching and grasping movements. But there are also situations, such as in a choice reaction time task, in which the subjects must select between actions on the basis of visual cues. This paper uses brain imaging to explore the pathways that are involved. Studies using PET and fMRI show that when subjects learn which actions are appropriate given the visual context, there are learning-related increases in the inferotemporal cortex and the ventral prefrontal cortex to which it projects. An event-related fMRI study shows that the activity in the inferotemporal cortex is time-locked to the presentation of the visual cue and the activity in the ventral prefrontal cortex to the response. Finally two PET studies directly compare the dorsal and ventral systems. In the second of these the subjects either move their finger on a moving target or identify the direction of movement and press one of two buttons to report the direction. When the subjects report the direction there is activity in the middle temporal gyrus and ventral prefrontal cortex. It is suggested that, when subjects must consciously identify the context and decide on the appropriate action, ventral pathways are involved.

Original publication




Conference paper

Publication Date





S125 - S131


Association Learning, Attention, Brain Mapping, Decision Making, Dominance, Cerebral, Humans, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Neural Pathways, Orientation, Prefrontal Cortex, Psychomotor Performance, Temporal Lobe, Tomography, Emission-Computed, Visual Pathways