The role of muscle proprioceptors in human limb position sense: a hypothesis

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In this mini-review I have proposed that there are two kinds of position sense, one a sense of the position of one part of the body relative to another, the other a sense of the location in space of our body and its limbs. A common method used to measure position sense is to ask subjects to match with one arm the position adopted by the other. Here all of the evidence points to muscle spindles as the major proprioceptors, with cutaneous receptors acting as proprioceptors providing a supporting role. Other senses such as vision do not play a major role. The sense of localisation in space measured by pointing to the arm, rather than matching its position, I propose, is not served by proprioceptors but by exteroceptors, vision, touch and hearing. Here the afferent input is relayed to sensory areas of the brain, to address the postural schema, a cortical map of the body and limbs, specifying its size and shape. It is here that spatial location is computed. This novel interpretation of position sense as two separate entities has the advantage of proposing new, future experiments and if it is supported by the findings, it will represent an important step forward in our understanding of the central processing of spatial information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178 - 183
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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