The body in the brain: Neural bases of corporeal awareness

  • Berlucchi G
  • Aglioti S
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Recent studies have begun to unravel the brain mechanisms that underlie the mental representation of the body. Imitation of movements by neonates suggests an implicit knowledge of the body structure that antedates the adult body schema. This can include inanimate objects that bear systematic relations to the body, as shown by the elimination from self awareness of a body part and its associated paraphernalia after selective brain lesions. Dynamic aspects of the body schema are revealed by spontaneous sensations from a lost body part as well as by orderly phantom sensations elicited by stimulation of body areas away from the amputation line and even by visual stimulation. The mechanisms of the body schema exhibit stability, since some brain regions seem permanently committed to representing the corresponding body parts in conscious awareness, and plasticity, since brain regions deprived of their natural inputs from a body part become reactive to inputs from other body parts.

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