Parallel and serial processing of haptic information in man: effects of parietal lesions on sensorimotor hand function

Neuropsychologia. 1996 Jul;34(7):669-87. doi: 10.1016/0028-3932(95)00148-4.


Recent animal studies have shown that there is an evolutionary shift within the order of primates from parallel to serial processing of haptic information. In an attempt to determine whether there is also evidence of serial processing in humans 10 patients with parietal cortical lesions, three patients with subcortical lesions and one patient after hemispherectomy, were examined. Case-by-case and across subject analysis of lesion type, sensorimotor profile and electrophysiological findings showed that in unihemispheric lesions: (a) there is little impairment of thermesthesia, nociception and vibration sense: (b) two-point discrimination and integrity of the N20 somatosensory component are highly correlated; (c) a loss of the N20 component is accompanied by a severe impairment of stereognosis; (d) conversely, in more posterior lesions astereognosis can occur with an intact N20 component; and (e) if the lesion is in the right hemisphere there is frequently impairment of graphesthesia in both hands. These data are taken to indicate serial processing from SI (as evidenced by an intact N20 component) to posterior parietal cortex allowing progressive spatial and temporal integration. In graphesthesia our data suggest an integrative function of the right parietal cortex for both sides of the body. Other sensory qualities like vibration nociception and thermesthesia are apparently processed in a non-serial, probably parallel way involving both hemispheres. The effects of cerebral lesions in our series suggest parallel as well as serial processing of somesthetic information in man underlying the perception of different haptic features.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Astrocytoma / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / injuries
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed