Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Dorsal Visual Pathway

Visual information arriving at the cortex is first processed in the occipital lobe. From there, two main pathways project (Mishkin et al., 1983). The dorsal pathway projects visual information into the parietal lobe, the ventral pathway projects visual information into the temporal lobe.

The dorsal pathway is hypothesised by many to play the major role in spatial localization of stimuli. The parietal lobe receives input from not only the dorsal pathway, but also the auditory and somatosensory centers in the brain. This information is integrated into a coherent spatial representation of the world.

The dorsal pathway is also hypothesised to be an 'action' pathway, in that it computes spatial relations between the organism and the environment, which allows for the organism's effective interaction with the environment. That is, it can be viewed as providing "vertical modules" that directly link vision to action (Goodale & Humphrey, 1998; Milner & Goodale, 1995). From this perspective, the dorsal pathway can be linked to the subsumption architecture of behavior-based robotics (Brooks, 1999).


  1. Brooks, R. A. (1999). Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History Of The New AI. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Goodale, M. A., & Humphrey, G. K. (1998). The objects of action and perception. Cognition, 67, 181-207.
  3. Milner, D. A., & Goodale, M. (1995). The visual brain in action. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  4. Mishkin, M., Ungerleider, L., & Macko, K. (1983). Object vision and spatial vision: Two cortical pathways. Trends in Neuroscience, 6, 414-417.

(Revised March 2010)