Visuo-motor and interoceptive influences on peripersonal space representation following spinal cord injury


Michele Scandola, Salvatore Maria Aglioti, Giovanna Lazzeri, Renato Avesani, Silvio Ionta & Valentina Moro


Peripersonal space (PPS) representation is modulated by information coming from the body. In paraplegic individuals, whose lower limb sensory-motor functions are impaired or completely lost, the representation of PPS around the feet is reduced. However, passive motion can have short-term restorative effects. What remains unclear is the mechanisms underlying this recovery, in particular with regard to the contribution of visual and motor feedback and of interoception. Using virtual reality technology, we dissociated the motor and visual feedback during passive motion in paraplegics with complete and incomplete lesions and in healthy controls. The results show that in the case of paraplegics, the presence of motor feedback was necessary for the recovery of PPS representation, both when the motor feedback was congruent and when it was incongruent with the visual feedback. In contrast, visuo-motor incongruence led to an inhibition of PPS representation in the control group. There were no differences in sympathetic responses between the three groups. Nevertheless, in individuals with incomplete lesions, greater interoceptive sensitivity was associated with a better representation of PPS around the feet in the visuo-motor incongruent conditions. These results shed new light on the modulation of PPS representation, and demonstrate the importance of residual motor feedback and its integration with other bodily information in maintaining space representation.

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