Peripersonal space as the space of the self
The experience of our embodied Self is not limited to the physical constraints of our body, but it extends into the space where the body interacts with the environment and with other people, i.e. within the peripersonal space (PPS).
While previous studies conceived PPS as a low-level sensory-motor interface for hand-objects interaction, I propose that the human brain builds a global representation of PPS around the whole body as a primary extension of the self in space. To support this view, I will first show how a whole-body PPS, centered at trunk, exists, and incorporates body parts specific PPSs around the hand and the face. I will then demonstrate that if we induce a spatial shift in the experienced location of the self, by manipulating multisensory bodily inputs, as during the Full Body Illusion, the whole body PPS congruently shifts from the location of the physical body to that of the experienced self.
Finally, I will present new data suggesting that such experimentally induced shift in self-location and PPS representation affects not only low-level sensory processing, but also high-level cognition, such as semantic processing and social cognition. Taken together, these findings will suggest a close relationship between the extent of PPS representation and Self-consciousness.
Department of Clinical Neurosciences,
University Hospital Lausanne, Center for Neuroprosthetics, EPFL, Lausanne,