Functional Neuroanatomy of Proprioception


Proprioception is the sense of body position that is perceived both at the conscious and unconscious levels. Typically, it refers to two kinds of sensations: that of static limb position and of kinesthesia. Static position reflects the recognition of the orientation of the different body parts, whereas kinesthesia is the recognition of rates of movement. Proprioception is based on a multicomponent sensory system. There are various peripheral receptors that detect specific signals and major sensory afferent pathways that carry the information from the spinal cord up to the cortex. There are parallel pathways, some of which serve conscious proprioception, and others that serve subconscious proprioception. Conscious proprioception is relayed mostly by the dorsal column and in part by the spinocervical tract. Finally, the organ of perception for position sense is the sensory cortex of the brain. This review outlines the current understanding of these complex neural pathways, starting from the peripheral receptors and working up toward the center of perception, the brain. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 17(3):159–164, 2008)

Elizabeth O. Johnson, PhD, George C. Babis, MD, Konstantinos C. Soultanis, MD,
and Panayotis N. Soucacos, MD, FACS