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Grasping an object requires processing visuospatial information about the extrinsic features (spatial location) and intrinsic features (size, shape, orientation) of the object. Accordingly, manual prehension has been subdivided into a reach component, guiding the hand toward the object on the basis of its extrinsic features, and a grasp component, preshaping the fingers around the center of mass of the object on the basis of its intrinsic features. In neural terms, this distinction has been linked to a dedicated dorsomedial "reaching" circuit and a dorsolateral "grasping" circuit that process extrinsic and intrinsic features, linking occipital areas via parietal regions with the dorsal and ventral premotor cortex, respectively. We have tested an alternative possibility, namely that the relative contribution of the two circuits is related to the degree of on-line control required by the prehension movement. We used dynamic causal modeling of functional magnetic resonance imaging time series to assess how parieto-frontal connectivity is modulated by planning and executing prehension movements toward objects of different size and width. This experimental manipulation evoked different movements, with different planning and execution phases for the different objects. Crucially, grasping large objects increased inter-regional couplings within the dorsomedial circuit, whereas grasping small objects increased the effective connectivity of a mainly dorsolateral circuit, with a degree of overlap between these circuits. These results argue against the presence of dedicated cerebral circuits for reaching and grasping, suggesting that the contributions of the dorsolateral and the dorsomedial circuits are a function of the degree of on-line control required by the movement.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





11877 - 11887


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Animals, Brain Mapping, Frontal Lobe, Hand Strength, Haplorhini, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Models, Biological, Movement, Neural Pathways, Oxygen, Parietal Lobe, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Space Perception, Time Factors