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Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Aug;13(8):360-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.04.009. Epub 2009 Jul 31.

Hidden cognitive states revealed in choice reaching tasks.

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The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA. <>


Perceptual and cognitive processes have largely been inferred based on reaction times and accuracies obtained from discrete responses. However, discrete responses are unlikely to capture dynamic internal processes, occurring in parallel, and unfolding over time. Recent studies measuring continuous hand movements during target choice reaching tasks reveal the temporal evolution of hidden internal events. For instance, the direction of curved reaching trajectories reflects attention, language representations and the spatial number line, in addition to interactions between the ventral and dorsal visual streams. This elucidates the flow of earlier cognitive states into motor outputs. Thus, this line of research provides new opportunities to integrate information across different disciplines such as perception, cognition and action, which have usually been studied in isolation.

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