Visuo-motor pathways in humans revealed by event-related fMRI
Whether different brain networks are involved in generating unimanual responses to a simple visual stimulus presented in the ipsilateral versus contralateral hemifield remains a controversial issue. Visuo-motor routing was investigated with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) using the Poffenberger reaction time task. A 2 hemifield × 2 response hand design generated the crossed and uncrossed conditions, describing the spatial relation between these factors. Both conditions, with responses executed by the left or right hand, showed a similar spatial pattern of activated areas, including striate and extrastriate areas bilaterally, SMA, and M1 contralateral to the responding hand. These results demonstrated that visual information is processed bilaterally in striate and extrastriate visual areas, even in the uncrossed condition. Additional analyses based on sorting data according to subjects reaction times revealed differential crossed versus uncrossed activity only for the slowest trials, with response strength in infero-temporal cortices significantly correlating with crosseduncrossed differences (CUD) in reaction times. Collectively, the data favor a parallel, distributed model of brain activation. The presence of interhemispheric interactions and its consequent bilateral activity is not determined by the crossed anatomic projections of the primary visual and motor pathways. Distinct visuo-motor networks need not be engaged to mediate behavioral responses for the crossed visual field/response hand condition. While anatomical connectivity heavily influences the spatial pattern of activated visuo-motor pathways, behavioral and functional parameters appear to also affect the strength and dynamics of responses within these pathways.