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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 30;109(44):18114-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1207946109. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Mapping multisensory parietal face and body areas in humans.

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Institute for Neural Computation, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Department of Cognitive Science, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Detection and avoidance of impending obstacles is crucial to preventing head and body injuries in daily life. To safely avoid obstacles, locations of objects approaching the body surface are usually detected via the visual system and then used by the motor system to guide defensive movements. Mediating between visual input and motor output, the posterior parietal cortex plays an important role in integrating multisensory information in peripersonal space. We used functional MRI to map parietal areas that see and feel multisensory stimuli near or on the face and body. Tactile experiments using full-body air-puff stimulation suits revealed somatotopic areas of the face and multiple body parts forming a higher-level homunculus in the superior posterior parietal cortex. Visual experiments using wide-field looming stimuli revealed retinotopic maps that overlap with the parietal face and body areas in the postcentral sulcus at the most anterior border of the dorsal visual pathway. Starting at the parietal face area and moving medially and posteriorly into the lower-body areas, the median of visual polar-angle representations in these somatotopic areas gradually shifts from near the horizontal meridian into the lower visual field. These results suggest the parietal face and body areas fuse multisensory information in peripersonal space to guard an individual from head to toe.

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