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Curr Biol. 2001 Nov 27;11(23):1896-901.

Grasping the past. delay can improve visuomotor performance.

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Espace et Action, INSERM Unité 534, 16 avenue Lépine, 69676 Bron, France.


"Optic ataxia" is caused by damage to the human posterior parietal cortex (PPC). It disrupts all components of a visually guided prehension movement, not only the transport of the hand toward an object's location, but also the in-flight finger movements pretailored to the metric properties of the object. Like previous cases, our patient (I.G.) was quite unable to open her handgrip appropriately when directly reaching out to pick up objects of different sizes. When first tested, she failed to do this even when she had previewed the target object 5 s earlier. Yet despite this deficit in "real" grasping, we found, counterintuitively, that I.G. showed good grip scaling when "pantomiming" a grasp for an object seen earlier but no longer present. We then found that, after practice, I.G. became able to scale her handgrip when grasping a real target object that she had previewed earlier. By interposing catch trials in which a different object was covertly substituted for the original object during the delay between preview and grasp, we found that I.G. was now using memorized visual information to calibrate her real grasping movements. These results provide new evidence that "off-line" visuomotor guidance can be provided by networks independent of the PPC.

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