The brain’s fingers and hands
Haggard, P., Kitadono, K., Press, C. and Taylor-Clarke, M. (2006) The brain’s fingers and hands. Experimental Brain Research, 172 (1). pp. 94-102. ISSN 1432-1106
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00221-005-0311-8
The brain keeps track of the changing positions of body parts in space using a spatial body schema. When subjects localise a tactile stimulus on the skin, they might either use a somatotopic body map, or use a body schema to identify the location of the stimulation in external space. Healthy subjects were touched on the fingertips, with the hands in one of two postures: either the right hand was vertically above the left, or the fingers of both hands were interwoven. Subjects made speeded verbal responses to identify either the finger or the hand that was touched. Interweaving the fingers significantly impaired hand identification across several experiments, but had no effect on finger identification. Our results suggest that identification of fingers occurs in a somatotopic representation or finger schema. Identification of hands uses a general body schema, and is influenced by external spatial location. This dissociation implies that touches on the finger can only be identified with a particular hand after a process of assigning fingers to hands. This assignment is based on external spatial location. Our results suggest a role of the body schema in the identification of structural body parts from touch.