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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Nov;106(5):2248-63. doi: 10.1152/jn.01069.2010. Epub 2011 Jul 27.

Functional magnetic resonance adaptation reveals the involvement of the dorsomedial stream in hand orientation for grasping.

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Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Reach-to-grasp actions require coordination of different segments of the upper limbs. Previous studies have examined the neural substrates of arm transport and hand grip components of such actions; however, a third component has been largely neglected: the orientation of the wrist and hand appropriately for the object. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation (fMRA) to investigate human brain areas involved in processing hand orientation during grasping movements. Participants used the dominant right hand to grasp a rod with the four fingers opposing the thumb or to reach and touch the rod with the knuckles without visual feedback. In a control condition, participants passively viewed the rod. Trials in a slow event-related design consisted of two sequential stimuli in which the rod orientation changed (requiring a change in wrist posture while grasping but not reaching or looking) or remained the same. We found reduced activation, that is, adaptation, in superior parieto-occipital cortex (SPOC) when the object was repeatedly grasped with the same orientation. In contrast, there was no adaptation when reaching or looking at an object in the same orientation, suggesting that hand orientation, rather than object orientation, was the critical factor. These results agree with recent neurophysiological research showing that a parieto-occipital area of macaque (V6A) is modulated by hand orientation during reach-to-grasp movements. We suggest that the human dorsomedial stream, like that in the macaque, plays a key role in processing hand orientation in reach-to-grasp movements.

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