Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 336050
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - BODYBUILDING (Building body representations: An investigation of the formation and maintenance of body representations)

The summary should be a stand-alone description of the project and its outcomes. This text should be as concise as possible and suitable for dissemination to non specialist audiences. Please notice that this summary will be published.

Our body is the core of our sense of self, with profound implications for our sense of personal identity, self-esteem, and overall mental health. Disrupted mental body representations are a central part of several serious neurological and psychiatric disorders. The way in which body representations are constructed from sensory inputs from vision, touch, and other modalities, however, remains poorly understood.

BODYBUILDING (“Building Body Representations”) is a five-year project funded by the ERC and led by Prof Matthew R. Longo. The project aims to increase understanding of the processes by which body representations are constructed and maintained. Prof Longo and his research team in the Body Representation Laboratory at Birkbeck, University of London are investigating this issue using a wide range of methods from experimental psychology, perceptual psychophysics, and cognitive neuroscience. The core of the project is the hypothesis that mental body representations are shaped by inputs from multiple sensory modalities and affecting body representations at different spatial scales. Specifically, BODYBUILDING proposes that vision affects body representation from the top-down, primarily affecting representations of the whole body, whereas somatosensation affect body representation from the bottom-up, primarily affecting representations of individual body parts.

Over the first 2.5 years of the project, the BODYBUILDING team has made substantial progress in understanding the psychological and neural processes involved in the formation and maintenance of mental body representations. Our results suggest that several sensory modalities, including vision and touch, are involved in shaping body representations. We have uncovered evidence for several distinct classes of representation of the body, which are differently affected by these processes.

Other studies have investigated distortions of body representations. We have found that even healthy adults show large spatial distortions of perceived body size, shape, and configuration. For example, we find that people judge the knuckles of their fingers as substantially farther forward in the hand than they actually are.

These are only a sample of the research the BODYBUILDING team is conducting. Currently, we are continuing our research and using the results obtained so far to inform the design of research for the second half of the project.

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United Kingdom
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