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Visual and somatosensory information contribute to distortions of the body model

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Peviani,  Valeria
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Brain and Behavioural Sciences, University of Pavia;

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Melloni,  Lucia
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Neurology, New York University School of Medicine;

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neu-19-pev-01-visual.pdf
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Citation

Peviani, V., Melloni, L., & Bottini, G. (2019). Visual and somatosensory information contribute to distortions of the body model. Scientific Reports, 9: 13570. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-49979-0.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-D3B5-1
Abstract
Distorted representations of the body are observed in healthy individuals as well as in neurological and psychiatric disorders. Distortions of the body model have been attributed to the somatotopic cerebral representation. Recently, it has been demonstrated that visual biases also contribute to those distortions. To better understand the sources of such distortions, we compared the metric representations across five body parts affording different degrees of tactile sensitivity and visual accessibility. We evaluated their perceived dimensions using a Line Length Judgment task. We found that most body parts were underestimated in their dimensions. The estimation error relative to their length was predicted by their tactile acuity, supporting the influence of the cortical somatotopy on the body model. However, tactile acuity did not explain the distortions observed for the width. Visual accessibility in turn does appear to mediate body distortions, as we observed that the dimensions of the dorsal portion of the neck were the only ones accurately perceived. Coherent with the multisensory nature of body representations, we argue that the perceived dimensions of body parts are estimated by integrating visual and somatosensory information, each weighted differently, based on their availability for a given body part and a given spatial dimension.