Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Ventral Pathway

Visual information arriving at the cortex is first processed in the occipital lobe. From there, two main pathways project (Milner & Goodale, 1995; Mishkin, Ungerleider & Macko, 1983). The dorsal pathway projects visual information into the parietal lobe, the ventral pathway projects visual information into the temporal lobe.

The ventral pathway is hypothesised to play the major role in object identification. The temporal lobe receives this visual input from the ventral pathway, and the object(s) in the visual scene are compared to stored representations in the object-memory system, also located in the temporal lobe. The ventral pathway is also hypothesised to be a 'perception' pathway, in that it computes spatial relations among components of objects, allowing for their identification. In other words, one view is that the dorsal pathway specifies information about "where", while the ventral pathway specifies information about "what". However, slightly different interpretations of the functional roles of these pathways are possible (Goodale & Humphrey, 1998) that concern direct relations between vision and action, and which link this two-pathway literature to embodied cognitive science (Dawson, Dupuis & Wilson, 2010).


  1. Dawson, M.R.W., Dupuis, B., & Wilson, M. (2010). From Bricks To Brains: The Embodied Cognitive Science of LEGO Robots. Edmonton: Athabasca University 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 February 2010)