Grip Constancy but Not Perceptual Size Constancy Survives Lesions of Early Visual Cortex

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© 2020 Object constancies are central constructs in theories of visual phenomenology. A powerful example is “size constancy,” in which the perceived size of an object remains stable despite changes in viewing distance [1–4]. Evidence from neuropsychology [5], neuroimaging [6–11], transcranial magnetic stimulation [12, 13], single-unit and lesion studies in monkey [14–20], and computational modeling [21] suggests that re-entrant processes involving reciprocal interactions between primary visual cortex (V1) and extrastriate visual areas [22–26] play an essential role in mediating size constancy. It is seldom appreciated, however, that object constancies must also operate for the visual guidance of goal-directed action. For example, when reaching out to pick up an object, the hand's in-flight aperture scales with size of the goal object [27–30] and is refractory to the decrease in retinal-image size with increased viewing distance [31–41] (Figure 1), a phenomenon we call “grip constancy.” Does grip constancy, like perceptual constancy, depend on V1 or can it be mediated by pathways that bypass it altogether? We tested these possibilities in an individual, M.C., who has bilateral lesions encompassing V1 and much of the ventral visual stream. We show that her perceptual estimates of object size co-vary with retinal-image size rather than real-world size as viewing distance varies. In contrast, M.C. shows near-normal scaling of in-flight grasp aperture to object size despite changes in viewing distance. Thus, although early visual cortex is necessary for perceptual object constancy, it is unnecessary for grip constancy, which is mediated instead by separate visual inputs to dorsal-stream visuomotor areas [42–48].


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