Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 4, pp 1091–1103 | Cite as

Gaze anchoring guides real but not pantomime reach-to-grasp: support for the action–perception theory

  • Jessica R. Kuntz
  • Jenni M. Karl
  • Jon B. Doan
  • Ian Q. Whishaw
Research Article


Reach-to-grasp movements feature the integration of a reach directed by the extrinsic (location) features of a target and a grasp directed by the intrinsic (size, shape) features of a target. The action-perception theory suggests that integration and scaling of a reach-to-grasp movement, including its trajectory and the concurrent digit shaping, are features that depend upon online action pathways of the dorsal visuomotor stream. Scaling is much less accurate for a pantomime reach-to-grasp movement, a pretend reach with the target object absent. Thus, the action-perception theory proposes that pantomime movement is mediated by perceptual pathways of the ventral visuomotor stream. A distinguishing visual feature of a real reach-to-grasp movement is gaze anchoring, in which a participant visually fixates the target throughout the reach and disengages, often by blinking or looking away/averting the head, at about the time that the target is grasped. The present study examined whether gaze anchoring is associated with pantomime reaching. The eye and hand movements of participants were recorded as they reached for a ball of one of three sizes, located on a pedestal at arms’ length, or pantomimed the same reach with the ball and pedestal absent. The kinematic measures for real reach-to-grasp movements were coupled to the location and size of the target, whereas the kinematic measures for pantomime reach-to-grasp, although grossly reflecting target features, were significantly altered. Gaze anchoring was also tightly coupled to the target for real reach-to-grasp movements, but there was no systematic focus for gaze, either in relation with the virtual target, the previous location of the target, or the participant’s reaching hand, for pantomime reach-to-grasp. The presence of gaze anchoring during real vs. its absence in pantomime reach-to-grasp supports the action–perception theory that real, but not pantomime, reaches are online visuomotor actions and is discussed in relation with the neural control of real and pantomime reach-to-grasp movements.


Action–perception Pantomime reaching Reach-to-grasp Dorsal stream Ventral stream Visually guided reaching Visual attention 



This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) [JRK], NSERC Discovery Grant [JBD], and NSERC Discovery Grant [JMK]. The authors would like to thank Tsz Yin (Ian) Fung for his help with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, Canadian Centre for Behavioral NeuroscienceUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThompson Rivers UniversityKamloopsCanada
  3. 3.Engineering and Human Performance Lab, Department of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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