Neural Basis of Touch and Proprioception in Primate Cortex

Compr Physiol. 2018 Sep 14;8(4):1575-1602. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c170033.


The sense of proprioception allows us to keep track of our limb posture and movements and the sense of touch provides us with information about objects with which we come into contact. In both senses, mechanoreceptors convert the deformation of tissues-skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints-into neural signals. Tactile and proprioceptive signals are then relayed by the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system, where they are processed to give rise to percepts of objects and of the state of our body. In this review, we first examine briefly the receptors that mediate touch and proprioception, their associated nerve fibers, and pathways they follow to the cerebral cortex. We then provide an overview of the different cortical areas that process tactile and proprioceptive information. Next, we discuss how various features of objects-their shape, motion, and texture, for example-are encoded in the various cortical fields, and the susceptibility of these neural codes to attention and other forms of higher-order modulation. Finally, we summarize recent efforts to restore the senses of touch and proprioception by electrically stimulating somatosensory cortex. © 2018 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 8:1575-1602, 2018.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention
  • Decision Making
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Proprioception*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch Perception*