Successful execution of many motor skills relies on well-organized visual search (voluntary eye movements that actively scan the environment for task-relevant information). Although impairments of visual search that result from brain injuries are linked to diminished motor performance, the neural processes that guide visual search within this context remain largely unknown. The first objective of this study was to examine how visual search in healthy adults and stroke survivors is used to guide hand movements during the Trail Making Test (TMT), a neuropsychological task that is a strong predictor of visuomotor and cognitive deficits. Our second objective was to develop a novel computational model to investigate combinatorial interactions between three underlying processes of visual search (spatial planning, working memory, and peripheral visual processing). We predicted that stroke survivors would exhibit deficits in integrating the three underlying processes, resulting in deteriorated overall task performance. We found that normal TMT performance is associated with patterns of visual search that primarily rely on spatial planning and/or working memory (but not peripheral visual processing). Our computational model suggested that abnormal TMT performance following stroke is associated with impairments of visual search that are characterized by deficits integrating spatial planning and working memory. This innovative methodology provides a novel framework for studying how the neural processes underlying visual search interact combinatorially to guide motor performance. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Visual search has traditionally been studied in cognitive and perceptual paradigms, but little is known about how it contributes to visuomotor performance. We have developed a novel computational model to examine how three underlying processes of visual search (spatial planning, working memory, and peripheral visual processing) contribute to visual search during a visuomotor task. We show that deficits integrating spatial planning and working memory underlie abnormal performance in stroke survivors with frontoparietal damage.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes