Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 141, Issue 3, pp 359–369

Neural correlates of visuomotor associations

Spatial rules compared with arbitrary rules
  • Ivan Toni
  • Matthew F. Rushworth
  • Richard E. Passingham
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s002210100877

Cite this article as:
Toni, I., Rushworth, M.F. & Passingham, R.E. Exp Brain Res (2001) 141: 359. doi:10.1007/s002210100877


A green button may be the target of a movement, or it may instruct the opening of an adjacent door. In the first case, its spatial configuration serves to guide the hand, whereas in the second case its colour allows a decision between alternative courses of action. This study contrasts these two categories of visuomotor transformation. Our goal was to test the hypothesis that visual information can influence the motor system through different, task-dependent pathways. We used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure human brain activity during the performance of two tasks requiring the transformation of visual stimuli to motor responses. The stimuli instructed either a spatially congruent grasping movement or an arbitrarily associated hand movement. The experimental design emphasised preparatory- over movement-related activity. We expected ventral parieto-precentral regions to contribute to the visuomotor transformations underlying grasping movements, and fronto-striatal circuitry to contribute to the selection of actions on the basis of associative rules. We found that selecting between alternative courses of action on the basis of associative rules specifically involved ventral prefrontal, striatal and dorsal precentral areas. Conversely, spatially congruent grasping movements evoked specific differential responses in ventral precentral and parietal regions. The results suggest that visual information can flow through the dorsal system to determine how actions are performed, but that fronto-striatal loops are involved in specifying which action should be performed in the current context.

Neuroimaging Premotor cortex Parietal cortex Ventral prefrontal cortex Basal ganglia Grasping Conditional task Human 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Toni
    • 1
  • Matthew F. Rushworth
    • 3
  • Richard E. Passingham
    • 1
  1. 1.Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, University College, London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK
  2. 2.Institut für Medizin, Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  3. 3.Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK
  4. 4.F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Adelbertusplein 1, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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