Dissociating body representations in healthy individuals: differential effects of a kinaesthetic illusion on perception and action

Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(12):2430-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.04.009. Epub 2006 Jun 5.


Evidence from neuropsychological patients suggests that multiple body representations exist. The most common dissociation is between body schema to guide limb movements, and body image used to make perceptual judgements. In the current study we employed a kinaesthetic illusion in two experiments to dissociate body representations in healthy individuals. Tendon vibration creates an illusory lengthening of the muscle and an illusive displacement of the limb. In Experiment 1 two conditions were used. In the 'direct' condition the biceps of the dominant right arm of blindfolded participants was vibrated, creating illusory elbow extension. In the 'indirect' condition the right knee was held with the vibrated right arm, creating illusive lowering of the leg and knee. In both conditions, subjects performed with the non-vibrated arm a reaching as well as a matching response, theorized to be based on the body schema and body image, respectively. Results showed that the illusion was significantly larger for the matching as compared to the reaching response, with the most pronounced difference observed in the direct condition. In Experiment 2 reaching and matching without vibration and a passive matching response were implemented in the direct condition. The same differential effect of the illusion was found. Results further showed that passive and active matching were statistically similar but significantly different from the reaching response. In conclusion, these findings suggest that the effect of the kinaesthetic illusion on reaching and matching differed, consistent with the idea of separate underlying body representations for both responses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Vibration