Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 1, pp 137–146 | Cite as

Long- but not short-term tool-use changes hand representation

  • Lara A. CoelhoEmail author
  • Jason P. Schacher
  • Cory Scammel
  • Jon B. Doan
  • Claudia L. R. Gonzalez
Research Article


Tool-use has been found to change body representation. For example, participants who briefly used a mechanical grabber to pick up objects perceived their forearms to be longer immediately after its use (e.g., Cardinali et al., Curr Biol 19(12):R478–R479, 2009; they incorporated the tool into their perceived arm size). While some studies have investigated the long-term effects of tool-use on body representation, none of these studies have used a tool that encapsulates the entire body part (e.g., a glove). Moreover, the relationship between tool-use and the body model (the representation of the body’s spatial characteristics) has yet to be explored. To test this, we recruited 19 elite baseball players (EBP) and 18 age-matched controls to participate in a hand representation task. We included EBP because of their many years (8+) of training with a tool (baseball glove). The task required participants to place their hands underneath a covered glass tabletop (no vision of their hands), and to point to where they believed 10 locations (the tips and bases of each finger) were on their hands (Coelho et al., Psychol Res 81(6):1224–1231, 2017). Each point’s XY coordinates was tracked using an Optotrak camera. From these coordinates, we mapped out the participants perceived hand size. The results showed that when compared to the controls, EBP underestimated hand width and finger length of both hands. This indicates that long-term tool use produces changes in the body model for both, the trained and untrained hands. We conducted a follow-up study to examine if 15 min of glove use would change perceived hand size in control participants. Novice baseball players (participants without baseball experience: NBP) were recruited and hand maps were derived before and after 15 min of active catching with a glove. Results showed no significant differences between the pre and post hand maps. When we compared between the two experiments, the EBP showed smaller hand representation for both hand width and finger length, than the NBP. We discuss these results in relation to theories of altered body ownership.


Body representation Body model Plasticity Training Hand 



The utmost gratitude goes to the exceptional participation by Prairie Baseball Academy and their role in contributing their time to conduct this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Brain in Action Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.The Engineering and Human Performance Lab, Department of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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