Where the eye looks, the hand follows; limb-dependent magnetic misreaching in optic ataxia.
Jackson SR., Newport R., Mort D., Husain M.
The posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is thought to play an important role in the sensorimotor transformations associated with reaching movements. In humans, damage to the PPC, particularly bilateral lesions, leads to impairments of visually guided reaching movements (optic ataxia). Recent accounts of optic ataxia based upon electrophysiological recordings in monkeys have proposed that this disorder arises because of a breakdown in the tuning fields of parietal neurons responsible for integrating spatially congruent retinal, eye, and hand position signals to produce coordinated eye and hand movements . We present neurological evidence that forces a reconceptualization of this view. We report a detailed case study of a patient with a limb-dependent form of optic ataxia who can accurately reach with either hand to objects that he can foveate (thereby demonstrating coordinated eye-hand movements) but who cannot effectively decouple reach direction from gaze direction for movements executed using his right arm. The demonstration that our patient's misreaching is confined to movements executed using his right limb, and only for movements that are directed to nonfoveal targets, rules out explanations based upon simple perceptual or motor deficits but indicates an impairment in the ability to dissociate the eye and limb visuomotor systems when appropriate.