The Posterior Parietal Cortex Remaps Touch into External Space

TitleThe Posterior Parietal Cortex Remaps Touch into External Space
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsAzañón E, Longo MR, Soto-Faraco S, Haggard P
JournalCurrent Biology
Date Published07/2010

Localizing tactile events in external space is required for essential functions such as orienting, haptic exploration, and goal-directed action in peripersonal space. In order to map somatosensory input into a spatiotopic representation, information about skin location must be integrated with proprioceptive information about body posture [1, 2]. We investigated the neural bases of this tactile remapping mechanism in humans by disrupting neural activity in the putative human homolog of the monkey ventral intraparietal area (hVIP), within the right posterior parietal cortex (rPPC), which is thought to house external spatial representations [3, 4]. Participants judged the elevation of touches on their (unseen) forearm relative to touches on their face. Arm posture was passively changed along the vertical axis, so that elevation judgments required the use of an external reference frame. Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the rPPC significantly impaired performance compared to a control site (vertex). Crucially, proprioceptive judgments of arm elevation or tactile localization on the skin remained unaffected by rPPC TMS. This selective disruption of tactile remapping suggests a distinct computational process dissociable from pure proprioceptive and somatosensory localization. Furthermore, this finding highlights the causal role of human PPC, putatively VIP, in remapping touch into external space.