Processing reafferent and exafferent visual information for action and perception

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Journal of Vision





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A recent study suggests that reafferent hand-related visual information utilizes a privileged, attention-independent processing channel for motor control. This process was termed visuomotor binding to reflect its proposed function: linking visual reafferences to the corresponding motor control centers. Here, we ask whether the advantage of processing reafferent over exafferent visual information is a specific feature of the motor processing stream or whether the improved processing also benefits the perceptual processing stream. Human participants performed a bimanual reaching task in a cluttered visual display, and one of the visual hand cursors could be displaced laterally during the movement. We measured the rapid feedback responses of the motor system as well as matched perceptual judgments of which cursor was displaced. Perceptual judgments were either made by watching the visual scene without moving or made simultaneously to the reaching tasks, such that the perceptual processing stream could also profit from the specialized processing of reafferent information in the latter case. Our results demonstrate that perceptual judgments in the heavily cluttered visual environment were improved when performed based on reafferent information. Even in this case, however, the filtering capability of the perceptual processing stream suffered more from the increasing complexity of the visual scene than the motor processing stream. These findings suggest partly shared and partly segregated processing of reafferent information for vision for motor control versus vision for perception.