The Effect of Tactile and Visual Sensory Inputs on Phantom Limb Awareness

by mo on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

During my research, I came across this article, which introduced me to the term, "body schema":

"But it is also possible to have a general conscious awareness of a body part, including the size and position of the part, without actually feeling any specific sensation. Berlucchi and Aglioti acknowledged the terms ‘body schema’ and ‘corporeal awareness’ to represent ‘the mental construct that comprises the sense impressions, perceptions and ideas about a dynamic organization of one’s own body and its relation to that of other bodies’" (Berlucchi and Aglioti, 1997). 

Adopting this term, is it possible for the design of everyday objects to play with our corporeal sense of body, our "body schema"? Perhaps it could be a design which allows one to use it in not just one way, but multiple ways so that the user is consistently changing the way they use their body to interact with this design?

This article also points out the difference between “phantom sensation” and “phantom limb awareness”:

“Applying these concepts to the situation of phantom phenomena, a ‘phantom sensation’ would refer to specific feelings of sensory stimulation of the missing limb. For example, amputees may experience that something is actually touching the phantom limb or that cold water is passing over the missing limb. On the other hand, ‘phantom limb awareness’ would refer to the general knowledge of the presence/existence of the missing limb as one’s own” (Hunter and Katz 2003, p. 580).

Mislocalisation of touch sensations:

“Approximately half of the subjects reported dual percepts during light touch of the face or arm. Interestingly, the evoked phantom percept was not a specific sensation but rather a general awareness of a particular area of that phantom. This quality of sensation is similar to that described by Halligan and colleagues in a single case study of an amputee with dual percepts (Halligan et al., 1994). Previous studies of groups of amputees who were tested many years after amputation reported a similar prevalence of “mislocalisation’ of light touch stimuli to the face” (Hunter and Katz 2003, p. 584).

Reference: Hunter, J.P., Katz, J. & Davis, K.D. 2003, "The effect of tactile and visual sensory inputs on phantom limb awareness", Brain, vol. 126, no. 3, pp. 579-589.


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