Extending or projecting peripersonal space with tools? Multisensory interactions highlight only the distal and proximal ends of tools.
Holmes NP., Calvert GA., Spence C.
The effects of tool-use on the brain's representation of the body and of the space surrounding the body ('peripersonal space') has recently been studied within a number of disciplines in cognitive neuroscience, and is also of great interest to philosophers and behavioural ecologists. To date, most experimental findings suggest that tool-use extends the boundary of peripersonal space-visual stimuli presented at the tips of tools interact more with simultaneous tactile stimuli presented at the hands than visual stimuli presented at the same distance, but not associated with the tools. We studied the proposed extension of peripersonal space by tool-use by measuring the effects of three different tool-use tasks on the integration of visual and tactile stimuli at three distances from participants' hands along two hand-held tools. When the tool-use task required using the shafts or the tips of the tools, visuotactile interactions were stronger at the tips of the tools than in the middle of the shaft. When the handles of the tools were used, however, visuotactile interactions were strongest near the hands and decreased with distance along the tools. These results suggest that tools do not simply 'extend' peripersonal space, but that just the tips of tools actively manipulated in extrapersonal space are incorporated into the brain's visuotactile representations of the body and of peripersonal space.