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The body in the mind

Dr. Frederique de Vignemont

Tuesday, April 15, 2008, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Institut Jean - Nicod

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While more and more people talk about �embodied cognition�, the body itself remains an object rarely explicitly investigated. Do we have one single kind of system for representing the body? Most of the literature refers to the representation of the body, called either body schema or body image (or both), without making explicit its properties, nor always mentioning the possibility of a multiplicity of body representations. The diversity of bodily aspects (e.g. semantic, emotional, spatial, motor, tactile, visual, proprioceptive, etc.) and the variety of bodily disorders (e.g. autotopagnosia, phantom limb, somatoparaphrenia, anorexia nervosa, body-specific aphasia, personal neglect, etc) has led to a widely spread confusion about body representations. Body representations are described with many pairs of opposing properties: conscious/unconscious, conceptual/nonconceptual, dynamic/stable, innate/acquired, personal/generic, spatial/non-spatial. How many body representations do we really have? Shall we distinguish them in terms of their functional role on the model of visual perception, dissociating the body image for recognition and the body schema for action (Paillard, 1999; Gallagher, 2005)? Shall we rather focus on their temporal dynamics, distinguishing long-term and short-term body images (O�Shaughnessy, 1995; Reed, 2003)? Or is it better to look at their format, differentiating between the more analog format of a visuo-spatial bodily map and the more propositional and conceptual format of a semantic bodily map (Sirigu et al., 1991; Coslett and Scwhoebel, 2005)? Unfortunately, the empirical evidence is far from providing a clear answer. Double dissociations can confirm, but cannot create categories (Shallice, 1988). We need first to understand what criteria to use to distinguish between different types of body representations.

Dr. Frederique de Vignemont