Seeing or not seeing where your hands are.

Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy.
Experimental Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.17). 05/2000; 131(4):458-67. DOI: 10.1007/s002219900264
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Previous findings have demonstrated the existence of a visual peripersonal space centered on the hand in humans and its modulatory effects on tactile perception. A strong modulatory effect of vision on touch perception was found when a visual stimulus was presented near the hand. In contrast, when the visual stimulus was presented far from the hand, only a weak modulatory effect was found. The aim of the present study was to verify whether such cross-modal links between touch and vision in the peripersonal space centered on the hand could be mediated by proprioceptive signals specifying the current hand positions or if they directly reflect an interaction between two sensory modalities, i.e., vision and touch. To this aim, cross-modal effects were studied in two different experiments: one in which patients could see their hands and one in which vision of their hands was prevented. The results showed strong modulatory effects of vision on touch perception when the visual stimulus was presented near the seen hand and only mild effects when the vision of the hand was prevented. These findings are explained by referring to the activity of bimodal neurons in premotor and parietal cortex of macaque, which have tactile receptive fields on the hand, and corresponding visual receptive fields in the space immediately adjacent to the tactile fields. One important feature of these bimodal neurons is that their responsiveness to visual stimuli delivered near the body part is reduced or even extinguished when the view of the body part is prevented. This implies that, at least for the hand, the vision of the hand is crucial for determining the spatial mapping between vision and touch that takes place in the peripersonal space. In contrast, the proprioceptive signals specifying the current hand position in space do not seem to be relevant in determining the cross-modal interaction between vision and touch.

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