Researchers have shown that our understanding of body image could be the product of innate hardwiring within the brain.
Body image constructed inside the brain: researchers measure the brain’s map of a phantom hand
People can spend lots of time thinking about their bodies, but how does the brain know what the body is really like? By measuring the brain’s perceptual maps of a ‘phantom limb’, researchers have shown that our understanding of body image could be the product of innate hardwiring within the brain, rather than the result of perceiving what our body is actually like.
A ‘phantom limb’ is the term used to describe the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached to the body. The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, explains how scientists from Birkbeck, University of London, and University College London worked with interdisciplinary artist Catherine Long to map the ‘phantom’ left hand she vividly experiences after being born without a left arm.
Dr Matthew Longo, lead author of the study from the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London, said: “The existence of phantom limbs shows that our ‘body image’, as we call the conscious experience we have of our body, is constructed inside the brain, and does not depend on sensory signals reaching the brain from the body.