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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Dec;47(14):3033-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.06.020. Epub 2009 Jun 27.

Optic ataxia and the function of the dorsal stream: contributions to perception and action.

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INSERM, U864, Espace et Action, 16 Avenue Lépine, Bron F-69676, France.

Erratum in

  • Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jul;48(9):2786.


Optic ataxia (OA) is one of the symptoms pertaining to Bálint's Syndrome. It has been described clinically for nearly 80 years before it became a cornerstone of the most popular dual stream theory of the visual brain. Over the last 10 years a regain of interest for this neurological condition lead to a number of precise analyses of the deficits found in optic ataxia, giving rise to a renewed outline of its very definition and hence of the function(s) of the occipito-parietal (dorsal) stream. In absence of concomitant clinical symptoms, we review evidence that misreaching errors in central vision result from the "hand effect": an erroneous dynamic spatial processing of proprioceptive information from the hand. When visual feedback of the hand is provided (closed-loop condition), pure optic ataxia is restricted to peripheral vision. This central versus peripheral vision distinction is repeatedly used to argue that action and perception are not unique and dissociated systems. New assessments of optic ataxia patients are provided, confirming on one hand that their visuomotor deficit is specific to peripheral vision (i.e. when the gaze and the hand goals are dissociated), on the other hand that they disclose perceptual deficits in peripheral vision. These results are coherent with the recent demonstration that optic ataxia patients exhibit a general contralesional deficit for dynamic visuo-spatial processing, affecting both hand and eye movements [Gaveau, V., Pélisson, D., Blangero, A., Urquizar, C., Prablanc, C.,Vighetto, A., et al. (2008). A common parietal module for saccade and reach: Eye-hand coordination and saccadic control in optic ataxia. Neuropsychologia, 46, 475-486]. Such module(s) within the dorsal stream could be used for both action and perception in the periphery. It is concluded that optic ataxia cannot be considered as a unitary and specific visuo-manual deficit, and that the modular organisation of the dorsal stream allows for numerous dorsal-ventral interactions for perception and action.

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