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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Apr;12(4):217-30. doi: 10.1038/nrn3008.

A new neural framework for visuospatial processing.

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Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The division of cortical visual processing into distinct dorsal and ventral streams is a key framework that has guided visual neuroscience. The characterization of the ventral stream as a 'What' pathway is relatively uncontroversial, but the nature of dorsal stream processing is less clear. Originally proposed as mediating spatial perception ('Where'), more recent accounts suggest it primarily serves non-conscious visually guided action ('How'). Here, we identify three pathways emerging from the dorsal stream that consist of projections to the prefrontal and premotor cortices, and a major projection to the medial temporal lobe that courses both directly and indirectly through the posterior cingulate and retrosplenial cortices. These three pathways support both conscious and non-conscious visuospatial processing, including spatial working memory, visually guided action and navigation, respectively.

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