Seeing is not feeling

Posterior parietal but not somatosensory cortex engagement during touch observation

Wai Yiu Chan, Chris I. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Observing touch has been reported to elicit activation in human primary and secondary somatosensory cortices and is suggested to underlie our ability to interpret other’s behavior and potentially empathy. However, despite these reports, there are a large number of inconsistencies in terms of the precise topography of activation, the extent of hemispheric lateralization, and what aspects of the stimulus are necessary to drive responses. To address these issues, we investigated the localization and functional properties of regions responsive to observed touch in a large group of participants (n=40). Surprisingly, even with a lenient contrast of hand brushing versus brushing alone, we did not find any selective activation for observed touch in the hand regions of somatosensory cortex but rather in superior and inferior portions of neighboring posterior parietal cortex, predominantly in the left hemisphere. These regions in the posterior parietal cortex required the presence of both brush and hand to elicit strong responses and showed some selectivity for the form of the object or agent of touch. Furthermore, the inferior parietal region showed nonspecific tactile and motor responses, suggesting some similarity to area PFG in the monkey. Collectively, our findings challenge the automatic engagement of somatosensory cortex when observing touch, suggest mislocalization in previous studies, and instead highlight the role of posterior parietal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1468-1480
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 28 2015

Fingerprint

Somatosensory Cortex
Touch
Parietal Lobe
Emotions
Observation
Hand
Aptitude
Haplorhini

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

Seeing is not feeling : Posterior parietal but not somatosensory cortex engagement during touch observation. / Chan, Wai Yiu; Baker, Chris I.

In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 35, No. 4, 28.01.2015, p. 1468-1480.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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