The cognitive neuroscience of prehension: recent developments

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Aug;204(4):475-91. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2315-2. Epub 2010 Jun 8.


Prehension, the capacity to reach and grasp, is the key behavior that allows humans to change their environment. It continues to serve as a remarkable experimental test case for probing the cognitive architecture of goal-oriented action. This review focuses on recent experimental evidence that enhances or modifies how we might conceptualize the neural substrates of prehension. Emphasis is placed on studies that consider how precision grasps are selected and transformed into motor commands. Then, the mechanisms that extract action relevant information from vision and touch are considered. These include consideration of how parallel perceptual networks within parietal cortex, along with the ventral stream, are connected and share information to achieve common motor goals. On-line control of grasping action is discussed within a state estimation framework. The review ends with a consideration about how prehension fits within larger action repertoires that solve more complex goals and the possible cortical architectures needed to organize these actions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Cognitive Science* / methods
  • Goals
  • Hand / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology