Shrinking of spatial hand representation but not of objects across the lifespan

Cortex. 2022 Jan:146:173-185. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2021.10.009. Epub 2021 Nov 15.


Perception and action are based on cerebral spatial representations of the body and the external world. However, spatial representations differ from the physical characteristics of body and external space (e.g., objects). It remains unclear whether these discrepancies are related to functional requirements of action and are shared between different spatial representations, indicating common brain processes. We hypothesized that distortions of spatial hand representation would be affected by age, sensorimotor practice and external space representation. We assessed hand representations using tactile and verbal localization tasks and quantified object representation in three age groups (20-79 yrs, total n = 60). Our results show significant shrinking of spatial hand representations (hand width) with age, unrelated to sensorimotor functions. No such shrinking occurred in spatial object representations despite some common characteristics with hand representations. Therefore, spatial properties of body representation partially share characteristics of object representation but also evolve independently across the lifespan.

Keywords: Body representation; Hand; Sensorimotor functions; Spatial representation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Image
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Middle Aged
  • Space Perception
  • Touch
  • Touch Perception*
  • Young Adult