A Husserlian, Neurophenomenologic Approach to Embodiment

  • Jean-Luc Petit


Normally, we perfectly know where we are: we know that we are viewing the world from a particular and unique point of view. We know that we inhabit the physical body that is situated precisely at this same point of space. We localize ourselves in an absolute manner: definitely, we are ‘here’! We know where our hand is without having to watch it constantly, and we move our body without having to look around to know where it went. We can reach out for an object close at hand without having to fix it attentively in advance in order not to miss it. Such ‘knowledge’ (a misnomer) is indispensable in order for us to deal in a rapid, silent, adaptive and efficacious way with our customary occupations and duties. It is only when anomalies occur linked to cerebral lesions which make unreliable this implicit ‘knowledge’ and distort our experience that we become aware of the fact that this experience is contingent upon unknown conditions. Conditions that neuroscience help us understand by linking them to dysfunctions of the mechanisms underlying our sense of the moving body: ‘kinaesthesia’.


Phenomenological Description Motor Organ External Thing Dissociate Identity Disorder Visual Receptor Field 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I express my gratitude for the translation to Dr Christopher Macann, translator of the recently published book Berthoz and Petit 2008, the drafts from where I borrowed the bulk of this chapter.


  1. Arzy S, Thut G, Mohr C, Michel CM, Blanke O (2004) Neural basis of embodiment: distinct contributions of temporoparietal junction and extrastriate body area. J. Neurosci 2006 26(31):8074-8081CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berthoz A (1973) Contrôle vestibulaire des mouvements oculaires et des réactions d’équilibration. Thèse, Faculté des SciencesGoogle Scholar
  3. Berthoz A (1978) Vision et système vestibulaire. Encyclopaedia Universalis, Paris, 441-444Google Scholar
  4. Berthoz A (1991) Reference frames for the perception and control of movement. In: Paillard J (ed) Brain and space, Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Berthoz A (1994) La Géométrie Euclidienne a-t-elle des fondements dans l’organisation des systèmes sensoriels et moteurs?Google Scholar
  6. Berthoz A (1996) How does the cerebral cortex process and utilize vestibular Signals. In: Baloh RW, Halmagyi GM (eds) Disorders of the vestibular system. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Berthoz A (2000) The brain’s sense of movement. Harvard University Press, Cambrigde MAGoogle Scholar
  8. Berthoz A Melvill Jones G (1985) Adaptive mechanisms in gaze control. Reviews in oculomotor research. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  9. Berthoz A, Petit J-L (2008) The physiology and phenomenology of action. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Berthoz A, Pavard B, Young L (1974) Rôle de la vision périphérique et interactions visuo-vestibulaire dans la perception exocentrique du mouvement linéaire chez l’homme. C.R. de l’Académie des Sciences T.278, D (1974), 1605-1608Google Scholar
  11. Berthoz A, Graf W, Vidal PP (1991) The head-neck sensorymotor system. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Blakemore SJ (2003) Deluding the motor system. Conscious Cogn 12(2003):647-655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blakemore SJ, Smith J, Steel R, Johnstone CE, Frith CD (2000) The perception of self-produced stimuli in patients with auditory hallucinations and passivity experiences: evidence for a breakdown in self-monitoring. Psychol Med 30(5):1131-1139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blanke O, Mohr C (2005) Out-of-body experience, heautoscopy, and autoscopic hallucination of neurological origin: Implications for neurocognitive mechanisms of corporeal awareness and self consciousness. Brain Res Rev 50:184-199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Blanke O, Landis T, Spinelli L, Seeck M (2004) Out-of-body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain 2004(127):243-258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Blanke O, Mohr C, Michel CM, Pascual-Leone A, Brugger P, Seeck M, Landis T, Thut G (2005) Linking out-of-body experience and self processing to mental own-body imagery at the temporoparietal junction. J Neurosci. 25(3):550-557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Buizza A et al (1979) Otolothic acoustic interactions in the control of eye movement. Exp Brain Res 36:509-522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Daprati E et al (1997) Looking for the agent. An investigation into consciousness of action and self consciousness in schizophrenic patients. Cognition 65:71-86Google Scholar
  19. Edelman GM (1989) The remembered present. A biological theory of consciousness. Basic Books, New York, Fig. 3.1, 45Google Scholar
  20. Edelman GM, Tononi G (2000) Comment la matière devient conscience. Odile Jacob, ParisGoogle Scholar
  21. Farber M (ed) (1940) Philosophical Essays in Memory of E. Husserl Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  22. Frith CD (1992) The cognitive neuropsychology of schizophrenia. Lawrence Erlbaum, HoveGoogle Scholar
  23. Frith CD et al (1991) Willed action and the prefrontal cortex in man: a study with PET. Proc R Soc Lond 244:241-501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ghazanfar AA, Nicolelis MA (1997) Non linear processing of tactile information in the thalamocortical loop. J Neurophysiol 78(1):506-510Google Scholar
  25. Hegel GWF (1949) Philosophy of right (trans: Knox TM). Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Husserl E (1973) Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität. Texte aus dem Nachlass. I, Husserliana XIII. Martinus Nijhoff, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  27. Husserl E (1997) Thing and space. Lectures from 1907 (trans. & ed Rojcewirz R) Kluwer, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  28. Iriki A et al. (1996) Coding of modified body schema during tool use by macaque postcentral neurones. NeuroReport 7:2325-2330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Israël I, Berthoz A (1989) Contribution of the otoliths to the calculation of linear displacement. J Neurophysiol 62:247-263Google Scholar
  30. Ivanenko YP et al (1997) The contribution of otoliths and semicircular canals to the perception of two-dimensional passive whole-body motion in humans. J Physiol (London) 502:223-233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jeannerod M (2002) La nature de l’esprit. Odile Jacob, ParisGoogle Scholar
  32. Llinas R (2001) I of the Vortex. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  33. Lobel E, Kleine J-F, LeBihan D,Leroy-Willig A, Berthoz A (1998) Functional MRI of galvanic vestibular stimulation. J Neurophysiol 80:2699-2709Google Scholar
  34. Merzenich M, deCharms RC (1995) Neural representations, experience, and change. In: Llinas R, Churchland P (eds) Mind and brain. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. Nicolelis MA (1996) Beyond maps: a dynamic view of the somatosensory system. Braz J Med Biol Res 29(4):401-412Google Scholar
  36. Nicolelis MA (2005) Computing with thalamocortical ensembles during different behavioral states. J Physiol 566(Pt 1):37-47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Perrett DI, Mistlin AJ (1990) Visual and somatosensory processing in the macaque temporal cortex: the role of ‘expectation’. Exp Brain Res 82:437-450Google Scholar
  38. Petit J-L (1996). Solipsisme et Intersubjectivité. Quinze Leçons sur Husserl et Wittgenstein, Cerf Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  39. Singer W (1990) Search for coherence: a basic principle of cortical selforganization. Concepts Neurosci 1:1-26Google Scholar
  40. Varela F, Thompson E, Rosch E (1993) L’Inscription corporelle de l’esprit. Sciences cognitives et expérience humaine. Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  41. Viaud-Delmon I et al. (1999) Anxiety and integration of visual vestibular information studied with virtual reality, Biol Psychiatry 47:112-118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Viaud-Delmon I et al. (2000) Adaptation as a sensorial profile in trait anxiety: a study with virtual reality. J Anxiety Disord 14.6:583-601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Viaud-Delmon I, Berthoz A, Jouvent R (2002) Multisensory integration for spatial orientation in trait anxiety subjects: absence of visual dependence. Eur J Psychiatry 17.4:194-199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Xerri C (2003) Plasticité des représentations somesthésiques et illusions perceptives: le paradoxe du membre fantôme. In: Petit J-L (ed) Repenser le corps, l’action et la cognition avec les neurosciences. Intellectica 1-2(36-37):67-87Google Scholar
  45. Xerri C et al (1999) Representational plasticity in cortical area 3b paralleling tactual-motor skill acquisition in adult monkeys. Cerebral Cortex 1999(9):264-276CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Luc Petit
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de Strasbourg and Laboratoire de Physiologie de la Perception et de l’Action, Collège de FranceParisFrance

Personalised recommendations