Proprioceptive body illusions modulate the visual perception of reaching distance
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Carbajal, M. Julia
The neurobiology of reaching has been extensively studied in human and non-human pri- mates. However, the mechanisms that allow a subject to decide—without engaging in explicit action—whether an object is reachable are not fully understood. Some studies con- clude that decisions near the reach limit depend on motor simulations of the reaching move- ment. Others have shown that the body schema plays a role in explicit and implicit distance estimation, especially after motor practice with a tool. In this study we evaluate the causal role of multisensory body representations in the perception of reachable space. We rea- soned that if body schema is used to estimate reach, an illusion of the finger size induced by proprioceptive stimulation should propagate to the perception of reaching distances. To test this hypothesis we induced a proprioceptive illusion of extension or shrinkage of the right index finger while participants judged a series of LEDs as reachable or non-reachable with- out actual movement. Our results show that reach distance estimation depends on the illu- sory perceived size of the finger: illusory elongation produced a shift of reaching distance away from the body whereas illusory shrinkage produced the opposite effect. Combining these results with previous findings, we suggest that deciding if a target is reachable requires an integration of body inputs in high order multisensory parietal areas that engage in movement simulations through connections with frontal premotor areas.