Multimodal representation of limb endpoint position in the posterior parietal cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Apr;109(8):2097-107. doi: 10.1152/jn.00223.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


Understanding the neural representation of limb position is important for comprehending the control of limb movements and the maintenance of body schema, as well as for the development of neuroprosthetic systems designed to replace lost limb function. Multiple subcortical and cortical areas contribute to this representation, but its multimodal basis has largely been ignored. Regarding the parietal cortex, previous results suggest that visual information about arm position is not strongly represented in area 5, although these results were obtained under conditions in which animals were not using their arms to interact with objects in their environment, which could have affected the relative weighting of relevant sensory signals. Here we examined the multimodal basis of limb position in the superior parietal lobule (SPL) as monkeys reached to and actively maintained their arm position at multiple locations in a frontal plane. On half of the trials both visual and nonvisual feedback of the endpoint of the arm were available, while on the other trials visual feedback was withheld. Many neurons were tuned to arm position, while a smaller number were modulated by the presence/absence of visual feedback. Visual modulation generally took the form of a decrease in both firing rate and variability with limb vision and was associated with more accurate decoding of position at the population level under these conditions. These findings support a multimodal representation of limb endpoint position in the SPL but suggest that visual signals are relatively weakly represented in this area, and only at the population level.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Movement
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Proprioception
  • Visual Perception