The body in the brain revisited

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Jan;200(1):25-35. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1970-7. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Abstract

Corporeal awareness is a difficult concept which refers to perception, knowledge and evaluation of one's own body as well as of other bodies. We discuss here some controversies regarding the significance of the concepts of body schema and body image, as variously entertained by different authors, for the understanding of corporeal awareness, and consider some newly proposed alternatives. We describe some recent discoveries of cortical areas specialized for the processing of bodily forms and bodily actions, as revealed by neuroimaging, neurophysiological, and lesion studies. We further describe new empirical and theoretical evidence for the importance of interoception, in addition to exteroception and proprioception, for corporeal awareness, and discuss how itch, a typical interoceptive input, has been wrongly excluded from the classic concept of the proprioceptive-tactile body schema. Finally, we consider the role of the insular cortex as the terminal cortical station of interoception and other bodily signals, along with Craig's proposal that the human insular cortex sets our species apart from other species by supporting consciousness of the body and the self. We conclude that corporeal awareness depends on the spatiotemporally distributed activity of many bodies in the brain, none of which is isomorphic with the actual body.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Awareness*
  • Body Image*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pruritus / pathology
  • Pruritus / physiopathology
  • Self Concept