The brain is bombarded by information about the physical proportions of our bodies. The most familiar sensations, such as a puff of wind or the brush of our own shirt sleeve, serve to constantly remind the brain of the bodys outer bounds, creating a sense of what is known as proprioception. In a new study, researchers report this week that the brains ability to interpret external signals and update its sense of bodily self is more dynamic than had been previously thought and that such updates can happen very quickly, altering within a matter of seconds how body parts and individual touch sensations are perceived.
The work is reported by researchers Frederique de Vignemont, Henrik Ehrsson, and Patrick Haggard at University College London.
The information that is integrated in the course of proprioception comes from several different senses, including touch, pain, vision, information from muscles, and so on. The brain must combine all these information inputs to accurately perceive the external world through our bodys interaction with it and also to produce a coherent sense of self. Because all these signals carry such different kinds of information, the brain must perform a constant juggling act in order to make sense of the body and the world.
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