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Prog Brain Res. 2005;149:235-56.

Anatomical pathways that link perception and action.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Pathways linking action to perception are generally presented as passing from sensory pathways, through the thalamus, and then to a putative hierarchy of corticocortical links to motor outputs or to memory. Evidence for more direct sensorimotor links is now presented to show that cerebral cortex rarely, if ever, receives messages representing receptor activity only; thalamic inputs to cortex also carry copies of current motor instructions. Pathways afferent to the thalamus represent the primary input to neocortex. Generally they are made up of branching axons that send one branch to the thalamus and another to output centers of the brain stem or spinal cord. The information transmitted through the classical "sensory" pathways to the thalamus represents not only information about the environment and the body, but also about instructions currently on their way to motor centers. The proposed hierarchy of direct corticocortical connections of the sensory pathways is not the only possible hierarchy of cortical connections. There is also a hierarchy of the corticofugal pathways to motor centers in the midbrain, and there are transthalamic corticocortical pathways that may show a comparable hierarchy. The extent to which these hierarchies may match each other, and relate to early developmental changes are poorly defined at present, but are important for understanding mechanisms that can link action and perception in the developing brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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