Touch and go: decision-making mechanisms in somatosensation

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001;24:107-37. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.107.


A complex sequence of neural events unfolds between sensory receptor activation and motor activity. To understand the underlying decision-making mechanisms linking somatic sensation and action, we ask what components of the neural activity evoked by a stimulus are directly related to psychophysical performance, and how are they related. We find that single-neuron responses in primary and secondary somatosensory cortices account for the observed performance of monkeys in vibrotactile discrimination tasks, and that neuronal and behavioral responses covary in single trials. This sensory activity, which provides input to memory and decision-making mechanisms, is modulated by attention and behavioral context, and microstimulation experiments indicate that it may trigger normal perceptual experiences. Responses recorded in motor areas seem to reflect the output of decision-making operations, which suggests that the ability to make decisions occurs at the sensory-motor interface.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Perception
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Touch