Primary Somatosensory Cortex: New Research
Phantom pain and the brain
An actual touch, or an imaginary one? It’s all the same to (some parts of) your brain
By Sadie F. Dingfelder
The APA Monitor
Print version: page 22
Scientists have long conceptualized the part of the brain known as the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) as where it first registers touch sensations. Prick your finger and S1 springs into action, sending raw information about the injury’s location to higher brain areas for further interpretation, according to most neuroscience textbooks.
Those textbooks may need new editions. S1 doesn’t simply catalogue physical sensations: It also registers sensory illusions that are generated elsewhere in the brain, according to a recent study in PLOS Biology (Vol. 4, No. 3, pages 459–466). In fact, as far as S1 is concerned, there’s no difference between a real or imaginary touch, says lead author Felix Blankenburg, PhD, a neuroscience researcher at University College London (UCL). Other researchers, including David Ress, PhD, a neuroscience professor at Brown University, are finding similar results in S1’s cousin, the primary visual cortex.
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