From maps to form to space: touch and the body schema

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Feb;48(3):645-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.017. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


Evidence from patients has shown that primary somatosensory representations are plastic, dynamically changing in response to central or peripheral alterations, as well as experience. Furthermore, recent research has also demonstrated that altering body posture results in changes in the perceived sensation and localization of tactile stimuli. Using evidence from behavioral studies with brain-damaged and healthy subjects, as well as functional imaging, we propose that the traditional concept of the body schema should be divided into three components. First are primary somatosensory representations, which are representations of the skin surface that are typically somatotopically organized, and have been shown to change dynamically due to peripheral (usage, amputation, deafferentation) or central (lesion) modifications. Second, we argue for a mapping from a primary somatosensory representation to a secondary representation of body size and shape (body form representation). Finally, we review evidence for a third set of representations that encodes limb position and is used to represent the location of tactile stimuli relative to the subject using external, non-somatotopic reference frames (postural representations).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Image*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes
  • Personal Space*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology