published: 09 May 2013
Cognitive functions of the posterior parietal cortex
Christos Constantinidis1*, David J. Bucci2and Michael D. Rugg3
1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
2Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA
3Center for Vital Longevity and School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA
Sidney A. Simon, Duke University, USA
The posterior parietal cortex has traditionally been associated
with visuo-spatial perception and spatial attention, however,
accumulating evidence indicates that it is involved in a much
wider range of cognitive functions. The articles included in
the E-book review experimental data and theoretical consider-
ations, as well as reviews of recent work supporting this idea.
Anatomical, lesion, neurophysiological, and functional imaging
data are discussed. Animal models (rodent and primate) as well
as human studies are covered. Finally, the unique and shared
functions of the posterior parietal cortex are compared to other
brain areas. These contributions provide a primer of the cur-
rent state of knowledge, identify unresolved questions, highlight
recent conceptual and methodological advances, and, we hope,
will stimulate future research.
In the first part of the E-book, evidence from rodent model
systems is presented. Articles examine the contribution of ani-
mal models to long-termmemory (Myskiw and Izquierdo,2012),
illusory conjunctions (Kesner, 2012), ranking of topographic
signals (Broussard, 2012), and relational learning (Robinson
and Bucci, 2012). A common theme across these topics is the
intersection of attentional functions of posterior parietal cortex
with learning/memory-related processes. Dataarepresented from
studies that combine experimental lesion techniques and electro-
physiological methods with sophisticated behavioral assays that
A series of experiments in non-human primate models simi-
larly reveal activation of the posterior parietal cortex in a variety
of cognitive functions, such as numerosity (Roitman et al., 2012),
categorization (Fitzgerald et al., 2012), and decision-making
(Huk and Meister, 2012). Spatial signals are present and shape
peri-personal shape and limb movements (Hadjidimitrakis et al.,
2012), however, spatial information also forms an abstract spa-
tial representation that can be decoupled from sensorimotor
control (Chafee and Crowe, 2012). Neurophysiological experi-
ments provide insights on the nature of differences between the
posterior parietal cortex and other cortical areas, such as the
prefrontal cortex, in the context of visual search (Wardak et al.,
2012) and other tasks (Katsuki and Constantinidis, 2012). The
conclusion that emerges from these studies is that the posterior
parietal cortex is activated in a wide range of tasks, and individ-
In the last part of the E-book, evidence from human stud-
ies is considered. Imaging studies routinely reveal BOLD acti-
vation during episodic memory tasks (Berryhill, 2012; Levy,
2012). In recent years, nuanced memory deficits following pari-
etal lesions have also been recognized (Berryhill, 2012). EEG
and MEG studies have yielded consistent evidence about the
time course of parietal mnemonic activation (Levy, 2012). Both
process- and content-based models have been proposed to
account for the nature of this activation (Berryhill, 2012; Levy,
2012). Finally, the posterior parietal cortex has been implicated
in cognitive control, with different subdivisions proposed to be
specialized for bottom-up and top-down control (Shomstein,
Collectively, these studies illustrate our current understanding
of the posterior parietal cortex with regard to cognitive opera-
tions. While the nature and extent of its involvement continues
to be investigated, it is now clear that its role goes beyond the
functions traditionally ascribed to it, spatial representation and
attention—a major development of the past few years.
Berryhill, M. E. (2012). Insights from
neuropsychology: pinpointing the
role of the posterior parietal cor-
tex in episodic and working mem-
ory. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:31.
Broussard, J. I. (2012). Posterior pari-
etal cortex dynamically ranks topo-
ence. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:32.
Chafee, M. V., and Crowe, D. A.
(2012). Thinking in spatial terms:
decoupling spatial representation
from sensorimotor control in mon-
key posterior parietal areas 7a and
LIP. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:112.
Fitzgerald, J. K., Swaminathan, S. K.,
and Freedman, D. J. (2012). Visual
categorization and the parietal cor-
tex. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:18.
Hadjidimitrakis, K., Breveglieri, R.,
Bosco, A., and Fattori, P. (2012).
Three-dimensional eye position sig-
nals shape both peripersonal space
and arm movement activity in
the medial posterior parietal cor-
tex. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:37.
Huk, A. C., and Meister, M. L. (2012).
Neural correlates and neural com-
cortex during perceptual decision-
making. Front. Integr. Neurosci.
6:86. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00086
Katsuki, F., and Constantinidis, C.
(2012). Unique and shared roles of
the posterior parietal and dorsolat-
eral prefrontal cortex in cognitive
functions. Front. Integr. Neurosci.
6:17. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00017
Kesner, R. P. (2012). Parietal lesions
produce illusory conjunction errors
in rats. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:22.
Levy, D. A. (2012). Towards an under-
processes: some conceptual guide-
posts. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:41.
Myskiw, J. C.,and
Frontiers in Integrative Neurosciencewww.frontiersin.org
May 2013 | Volume 7 | Article 35 | 1
Constantinidis et al.Cognitive functions of the posterior parietal cortex Download full-text
some data from laboratory ani-
mals. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:8.
Robinson, S., and Bucci, D. J. (2012).
Damage to posterior parietal cor-
tex impairs two forms of relational
learning. Front. Integr. Neurosci.
6:45. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00045
Roitman, J. D., Brannon, E. M., and
Platt, M. L. (2012). Representation
of numerosity in posterior parietal
cortex. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:25.
functions of the posterior pari-
Wardak, C., Ben Hamed, S., Olivier,
E., and Duhamel, J. R. (2012).
Differential effects of parietal and
frontal inactivations on reaction
task. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:39.
Received: 02 April 2013; accepted: 23
April 2013; published online: 09 May
Citation:ConstantinidisC, Bucci DJ and
Rugg MD (2013) Cognitive functions
of the posterior parietal cortex. Front.
Copyright © 2013 Constantinidis,Bucci
and Rugg. This is an open-access arti-
cle distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in other forums, provided
the original authors and source are cred-
ited and subject to any copyright notices
concerning any third-party graphics etc.
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May 2013 | Volume 7 | Article 35 | 2