The body schema, a constantly updated representation of the body and its parts, has been suggested to emerge from body part-specific representations which integrate tactile, visual, and proprioceptive information about the identity and posture of the body. Studies using different approaches have provided evidence for a distinct representation of the visual space ~30 cm around the upper body, and predominantly the hands, termed the peripersonal space. In humans, peripersonal space representations have often been investigated with a visual–tactile crossmodal congruency task. We used this task to test if a representation of peripersonal space exists also around the feet, and to explore possible interactions of peripersonal space representations of different body parts. In Experiment 1, tactile stimuli to the hands and feet were judged according to their elevation while visual distractors presented near the same limbs had to be ignored. Crossmodal congruency effects did not differ between the two types of limbs, suggesting a representation of peripersonal space also around the feet. In Experiment 2, tactile stimuli were presented to the hands, and visual distractors were flashed either near the participant’s foot, near a fake foot, or in distant space. Crossmodal congruency effects were larger in the real foot condition than in the two other conditions, indicating interactions between the peripersonal space representations of foot and hand. Furthermore, results of all three conditions showed that vision of the stimulated body part, compared to only proprioceptive input about its location, strongly influences crossmodal interactions for tactile perception, affirming the central role of vision in the construction of the body schema.
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More specifically, for the 12 participants who performed both experiments, all conditions were presented intermixed and pseudo-randomized. However, because the foot condition of Experiment 1 required that the stimulators were attached to the feet (whereas for all other conditions they were attached to the hands), the foot condition was always run first or last.
To test if running Experiments 1 and 2 together (see Footnote 1) was responsible for the effects of the foot at the hidden hand, the results for the hidden hand were analyzed with an additional factor Group (participated in Experiment 1 [12 participants] vs. Experiment 2 Only [15 participants]). There was a marginally significant interaction in the comparison of the two groups (participants who performed both experiments vs. Experiment 2 Only), Group × Distractor Side × Distractor Congruency (F 1,25 = 4.03, P = 0.056). Whereas this interaction was not significant in the Experiment 2 Only group, it was significant for those participants who also performed Experiment 1 (F 1,11 = 16.55, P = 0.002). This was due to a greater difference between incongruent minus congruent conditions (i.e., the CCE) for same side distractors (159 ms) than for opposite side distractors (105 ms) in this group. In contrast, in the Experiment 2 Only group the CCE did not differ for the two sides (same side: 102 ms; opposite side: 101 ms). The fact that in Experiment 1 both stimulated limbs were always visible (and part of Experiment 1 was always run before any of the conditions of Experiment 2) may therefore have lead to a stronger distinction of same and opposite side distractors “belonging” to their respective side, leading to a reduced influence of opposite side distractors or an increased influence of same side distractors. In contrast, when participants never saw both stimulated limbs near the distractors, they do not appear to have coded the distractors as belonging to two sides for the side of the hidden hand. Finally, to see if this group effect was specific for the hidden hand, we examined the Group × Distractor Side × Distractor Congruency interaction also for the visible hand; here, this interaction was not significant (P > 0.25), confirming that, indeed, the group difference was related to the hidden hand only. Note that this distinction between the two groups does not affect the main conclusions of the results form Experiment 2, namely the interaction with factor Condition.
In the ANOVA comparing the two groups—those participants who participated in both Experiments 1 and 2 vs. those who only performed Experiment 2 (see Footnote 2)—none of the interactions involving Group and Condition were significant, with the exception of a just marginal interaction of Group × Condition × Distractor Side (F 2,50 = 2.50, P = 0.092), indicating that the two groups differed according to how same side vs. opposite side distractors influenced performance in the different conditions. In the group which also performed Experiment 1, the interaction of Condition × Distractor Side was not significant. In contrast, in the Experiment 2 Only group, this interaction was significant (F 2,28 = 4.57, P = 0.02); further analysis revealed that this was because participants responded slower for opposite side distractors overall in the fake foot condition, but not in the real foot and the empty compartment conditions. Note that this difference in the fake foot condition concerns responses to all stimuli of that side overall, and is unrelated to the CCE (incongruent vs. congruent distractors).
Crossmodal congruency effect
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We thank Sybille Röper for her help with data acquisition.
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Schicke, T., Bauer, F. & Röder, B. Interactions of different body parts in peripersonal space: how vision of the foot influences tactile perception at the hand. Exp Brain Res 192, 703–715 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-008-1587-2
- Body schema
- Peripersonal space