More than skin deep: body representation beyond primary somatosensory cortex

TitleMore than skin deep: body representation beyond primary somatosensory cortex
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsLongo MR, Azañón E, Haggard P
KeywordsBody Image, body representation, somatosensation, Touch

The neural circuits underlying initial sensory processing of somatic information are relatively well understood. In contrast, the processes that go beyond primary somatosensation to create more abstract representations related to the body are less clear. In this review, we focus on two classes of higher-order processing beyond somatosensation. Somatoperception refers to the process of perceiving the body itself, and particularly of ensuring somatic perceptual constancy. We review three key elements of somatoperception: (a) remapping information from the body surface into an egocentric reference frame, (b) exteroceptive perception of objects in the external world through their contact with the body, and (c) interoceptive percepts about the nature and state of the body itself. Somatorepresentation, in contrast, refers to the essentially cognitive process of constructing semantic knowledge and attitudes about the body, including: (d) lexical-semantic knowledge about bodies generally and one's own body specifically, (e) configural knowledge about the structure of bodies, (f) emotions and attitudes directed towards one's own body, and (g) the link between physical body and psychological self. We review a wide range of neuropsychological, neuroimaging and neurophysiological data to explore the dissociation between these different aspects of higher somatosensory function.