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Bilateral representations of touch in the primary somatosensory cortex

Tamè, Luigi, Braun, Christoph, Holmes, Nicholas P., Farnè, Alessandro, Pavani, Francesco (2016) Bilateral representations of touch in the primary somatosensory cortex. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 33 (1-2). pp. 48-66. ISSN 0264-3294. (doi:10.1080/02643294.2016.1159547) (KAR id:71607)


According to current textbook knowledge, primary somatosensory cortex (SI) supports unilateral tactile representations, whereas structures beyond SI, in particular the secondary somatosensory cortices (SII), support bilateral tactile representations. However, dexterous and well-coordinated bimanual motor tasks require early integration of bilateral tactile information. Sequential processing, first of unilateral and subsequently of bilateral sensory information might not be sufficient to accomplish these tasks. This view of sequential processing in the somatosensory system might therefore be questioned, at least for demanding bimanual tasks. Evidence from the last fifteen years is forcing a revision of this textbook notion. Studies in animals and humans indicate that SI is more than a simple relay for unilateral sensory information and, together with SII, contributes to the integration of somatosensory inputs from both sides of the body. Here, we review a series of recent works from our own and other laboratories in favour of interactions between tactile stimuli on the two sides of the body at early stages of processing. We will focus on tactile processing, although a similar logic may also apply to other aspects of somatosensation. We begin by describing the basic anatomy and physiology of interhemispheric transfer, drawing on neurophysiological studies in animals and behavioural studies in humans that showed tactile interactions between body sides, both in healthy and brain-damaged individuals. Then we describe the neural substrates of bilateral interactions in somatosensation as revealed by neurophysiological work in animals and neuroimaging studies in humans (i.e., functional magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation). Finally, we conclude with considerations on the dilemma of how efficiently integrating bilateral sensory information at early processing stages can coexist with more lateralised representations of somatosensory input, in the context of motor control.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/02643294.2016.1159547
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Luigi Tame
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2019 16:58 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 06:53 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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