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J Neurosci. 2007 Feb 7;27(6):1266-70.

Similar neural representations of the target for saccades and perception during search.

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Vision and Image Understanding Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


Are the body's actions and the mind's perceptions the result of shared neural processing, or are they performed largely independently? The brain has two major processing streams, and some have proposed that this division segregates visual processing for action and perception. The ventral pathway is claimed to support conscious experience (perception), whereas the dorsal pathway is claimed to support the control of movement (action). Others have argued that perception and action share much of their visual processing within the primate cortex. During visual search, the brain performs a sophisticated deployment of eye movements (saccadic actions) to gather information to subserve perceptual judgments. The relationship between the neural mechanisms mediating perception and action in visual search remains unexplored. Here, we investigate the visual representation of target information in the human brain, both for perceptual decisions and for saccadic actions during visual search. We use classification image analysis, a form of reverse correlation, to estimate the behavioral receptive fields of the visual mechanisms responsible for saccadic and perceptual responses during the same visual search task. Results show that the behavioral receptive fields mediating the perceptual decisions are indistinguishable from those driving the oculomotor decisions, suggesting that similar neural mechanisms are responsible for both perception and oculomotor action during search. Diverging target representations would result in an inefficient coupling between eye movement planning and perceptual judgments. Thus, a common target representation would be more optimal and might be expected to have evolved through natural selection in the neural systems responsible for visual search.

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