How the mind can map negative spaces around the body

December 19, 2012
How the mind can map negative spaces around the body

(Medical Xpress)—The brain's perception of space can determine whether a part of a body which occupies that space is either healthy or "neglected".

Lorimer Moseley, Chair in and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of South Australia, describes recent outcomes of research into spatial perception of people with complex (CRPS) as "profound".

CRPS is a disorder that can develop after a minor injury occurs to a limb and results in abnormal or developing out of proportion to the nature of the injury. Other problems also result, for example problems in which the painful arm or leg goes cold and blue, grows too much hair and stays swollen.

In a series of experiments using thermal imaging cameras, changes in the temperature of the hands of people with CRPS were recorded as they moved them across their body midline.

When only the affected hand was crossed over the midline, it became warmer and when only the healthy hand was crossed over the midline, it became cooler.

The of either hand was positively related to its distance from the body midline and crossing the affected hand over the body midline had small but significant effects on both spontaneous pain (which was reduced) and the sense of ownership over the hand (which was increased).

Professor Moseley said the results of this research indicated that CRPS involves more complex than has previously been considered.

"We conclude that impaired spatial perception modulated temperature of the limbs, tactile processing, spontaneous pain and the sense of ownership over the hands.

"This means that the problem that is occurring with the limb relates to the brain process that maps something into a space. It's almost as though the brain has rejected the space which the limb inhabits.

"In strokes it's called spatial neglect. This problem with space affects the way blood is sent to the body. If you remove the hand or limb away from that side of space it warms up.

"When you put a healthy hand into the negative space it cools down; the of space is influencing the rules by which blood flows. Our current finding is clear evidence of the autonomic nervous system being influenced by the brain's map of space.

"The space itself has adopted the signature of the disorder. This is a profound discovery, it's a clear physiological phenomena.

"This midline effect changes how much the patient feels the arm belongs to them and how much it hurts."

Explore further: Crossing your arms relieves pain

Related Stories

Crossing your arms relieves pain

May 20, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Crossing your arms reduces the intensity of pain you feel when receiving a painful stimulus on the hand, according to research by scientists at University College London.

Chronic pain distorts sufferers’ sense of space and time

July 24, 2012
Einstein’s famous theory of relativity proposed that matter can distort space and time. Now a new study recently published in the journal Neurology suggests that chronic pain can have the same effect.

The 'disinhibited' brain

September 21, 2011
The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Morbus Sudeck, is characterised by "disinhibition" of various sensory and motor areas in the brain. A multidisciplinary Bochum-based research group, led by Prof. Dr. ...

Mind can control allergic response

January 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- You – or more accurately, your brain – has control over how allergic your skin is, suggests new research.

Recommended for you

Neuroscientists build case for new theory of memory formation

October 23, 2017
Learning and memory are generally thought to be composed of three major steps: encoding events into the brain network, storing the encoded information, and later retrieving it for recall.

Running on autopilot: Scientists find important new role for 'daydreaming' network

October 23, 2017
A brain network previously associated with daydreaming has been found to play an important role in allowing us to perform tasks on autopilot. Scientists at the University of Cambridge showed that far from being just 'background ...

Rhythm of memory: Inhibited neurons set the tempo for memory processes

October 23, 2017
The more we know about the billions of nerve cells in the brain, the less their interaction appears spontaneous and random. The harmony underlying the processing of memory contents has been revealed by Prof. Dr. Marlene Bartos' ...

Researchers demonstrate 'mind-reading' brain-decoding tech

October 23, 2017
Researchers have demonstrated how to decode what the human brain is seeing by using artificial intelligence to interpret fMRI scans from people watching videos, representing a sort of mind-reading technology.

Research revises our knowledge of how the brain learns to fear

October 23, 2017
Our brains wire themselves up during development according to a series of remarkable genetic programs that have evolved over millions of years. But so much of our behavior is the product of things we learn only after we emerge ...

Scientists use supercomputer to search for "memory molecules"

October 23, 2017
Until now, searching for genes related to memory capacity has been comparable to seeking out the proverbial "needle in a haystack." Scientists at the University of Basel made use of the CSCS supercomputer Piz Daint to discover ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Dec 19, 2012
...that maps something into a space. - Moseley

Another sense of location - all making sense in light of the new way how the brain organizes the experiences of existence.
not rated yet Dec 19, 2012
@Tausch - on the contrary, proprioception - the sensation of the position and orientation of one's appendages in space - is a fairly well-described modality.

Besides proprioception, this (incidentally quite astonishing) new finding seems to offer some insights into body integrity identity disorder (BIID), as well as certain phantom limb phenomenon.. and may give a whole new meaning to the term "personal space"...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.