EEG dynamics of the frontoparietal network during reaching preparation in humans

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Visuomotor transformation processes are essential when accurate reaching movements towards a visual target have to be performed. In contrast, those transformations are not needed for similar, but non-visually guided, arm movements. According to previous studies, these transformations are carried out by neuronal populations located in the parietal and frontal cortical areas (the so-called “dorsal visual stream”). However, it is still debated whether these processes are mediated by the sequential and/or parallel activation of the frontoparietal areas. To investigate this issue, we designed a task where the same visual cue could represent either the target of a reaching/pointing movement or the go-signal for a similar but non-targeting arm movement. By subtracting the event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded from healthy subjects performing the two conditions, we identified the brain processes underlying the visuomotor transformations needed for accurate reaching/pointing movements. We then localized the generators by means of cortical current density (CCD) reconstruction and studied their dynamics from visual cue presentation to movement onset. The results showed simultaneous activation of the parietal and frontal areas from 140 to 260 ms. The results are interpreted as neural correlates of two critical phases of visuomotor integration, namely target selection and movement selection. Our findings suggest that the visuomotor transformation processes required for correct reaching/pointing movements do not rely on a purely sequential activation of the frontoparietal areas, but mainly on a parallel information processing system, where feedback circuits play an important role before movement onset.

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