CORDIS - EU research results

How does our brain store bodily experiences?

Project description

How our body remembers

Our past bodily experiences (like pain caused by injury) are recorded as body memory (BM) which impacts our everyday behaviour. It also affects our wellbeing and emotions like depression, anxiety or fear. Unfortunately, the neuronal mechanisms and pathways that underline human BM still lack clarification due to obstacles related to experimental research on offline representations of bodily feelings. To fill this knowledge gap, the EU-funded BodyMemory project will use 7 Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging (7T-fMRI) in combination with topographic mapping, psychophysics, and modern VR techniques. The project will use recent advances in episodic memory research to systematically investigate the storage, retrieval, and finally intervention-induced plasticity of the somatosensory BMs and emotions.


Body memory is the sum of all past bodily experiences that are stored in memory and influence behavior. Body memories influence our daily life, for example when we remember injuries, accidents, or moments of bodily comfort, and they affect mental health, for example when they cause psychosomatic symptoms, depression, or anxiety. Scientific knowledge on the neuroanatomical pathways and neuronal mechanisms that underlie human body memory is scarce, partly because offline representations of bodily experiences are challenging to study experimentally. Recently, I used 7 Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging (7T-fMRI) to detect and describe offline representations of tactile sensations at the skin in human somatosensory cortex. These representations are fine-grained, precise, and replicable, and provide empirical evidence that offline representations of bodily feelings can be described by means of 7T-fMRI. In this research project, I will combine my own knowledge and experience in ultra-high field imaging, topographic mapping, psychophysics, and embodiment with recent advances in episodic memory research to target three research questions: (i) Which neuronal mechanisms underlie the storage and retrieval of somatosensory experiences?, (ii) How do stored sensory experiences contribute to psychosomatic symptoms?, and (iii) How can we treat psychosomatic symptoms triggered by maladaptive body memories? Offline representations of tactile experiences and associated emotions will be used as a model system to systematically investigate the storage, retrieval, and intervention-induced plasticity of somatosensory body memories and associated emotions in healthy adults and in clinical populations. The research agenda I propose here will use state-of-the-art scientific tools and methods to gain basic and applied insights into a novel and far reaching research field with the final goal to develop interventions to change stored body memories.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 462 011,51
72074 Tuebingen

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Baden-Württemberg Tübingen Tübingen, Landkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 462 011,51

Beneficiaries (2)