Intact automatic avoidance of obstacles in patients with visual form agnosia

Abstract

In everyday life our reaching behaviour has to be guided not only by the location and properties of the target object, but also by the presence of potential obstacles in the workspace. Recent evidence from neglect and optic ataxia patients has suggested that this automatic obstacle avoidance is mediated by the dorsal, rather than the ventral, stream of visual processing. We tested this idea in two studies involving patients with visual form agnosia resulting from bilateral ventral-stream damage. In the first study, we asked patient DF to reach out and pick up a target object in the presence of obstacles placed at varying distances to the left or right of the target. We found that both DF and controls shifted their trajectories away from the potential obstacles and adjusted their grip aperture in such a way as to minimize risk of collision. In a second study, we asked DF and a second patient, SB, to either reach between, or to bisect the space between, two cylinders presented at varying locations. We found that both patients adjusted their reach trajectories to account for shifts in cylinder location in the reaching task, despite showing significantly worse performance than control subjects when asked to make a bisection judgement. Taken together, these data indicate that automatic obstacle avoidance behaviour is spared in our patients with visual form agnosia. We attribute their ability to the functional intactness of the dorsal stream of visual processing, and argue that the ventral stream plays no important role in automatic obstacle avoidance.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In Experiment 2 two groups of control participants were tested; one group age-matched to D.F. and one group age-matched to S.B. A comparison between the results of the two control groups revealed no difference, suggesting that the age difference between them did not affect performance.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by research grants from the Wellcome Trust (grant 052443) and the Leverhulme Trust (grants F/268/T and F/00128/C). We are grateful to both DF and SB for their time, patience and good-humoured co-operation.

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Correspondence to A. David Milner.

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Rice, N.J., McIntosh, R.D., Schindler, I. et al. Intact automatic avoidance of obstacles in patients with visual form agnosia. Exp Brain Res 174, 176 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-006-0435-5

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Keywords

  • Movement Time
  • Obstacle Avoidance
  • Grip Aperture
  • Dorsal Stream
  • Ventral Stream