The posterior parietal cortex: sensorimotor interface for the planning and online control of visually guided movements

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(13):2594-606. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2005.10.011. Epub 2005 Nov 21.


We present a view of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) as a sensorimotor interface for visually guided movements. Special attention is given to the role of the PPC in arm movement planning, where representations of target position and current hand position in an eye-centered frame of reference appear to be mapped directly to a representation of motor error in a hand-centered frame of reference. This mapping is direct in the sense that it does not require target position to be transformed into intermediate reference frames in order to derive a motor error signal in hand-centered coordinates. Despite being direct, this transformation appears to manifest in the PPC as a gradual change in the functional properties of cells along the ventro-dorsal axis of the superior parietal lobule (SPL), i.e. from deep in the sulcus to the cortical surface. Possible roles for the PPC in context dependent coordinate transformations, formation of intrinsic movement representations, and in online control of visually guided arm movements are also discussed. Overall these studies point to the emerging view that, for arm movements, the PPC plays a role not only in the inverse transformations required to convert sensory information into motor commands but also in 'forward' transformations as well, i.e. in integrating sensory input with previous and ongoing motor commands to maintain a continuous estimate of arm state that can be used to update present and future movement plans. Critically, this state estimate appears to be encoded in an eye-centered frame of reference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*