PLoS ONE (Jan 2017)

Shaping visual space perception through bodily sensations: Testing the impact of nociceptive stimuli on visual perception in peripersonal space with temporal order judgments.

  • Lieve Filbrich,
  • Andrea Alamia,
  • Séverine Blandiaux,
  • Soline Burns,
  • Valéry Legrain

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 8
p. e0182634


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Coordinating spatial perception between body space and its external surrounding space is essential to adapt behaviors to objects, especially when they are noxious. Such coherent multisensory representation of the body extended into external space is conceptualized by the notion of peripersonal reference frame, mapping the portion of space in which somatic and extra-somatic inputs interact closely. Studies on crossmodal interactions between nociception and vision have been scarce. Here we investigated how the perception of visual stimuli, especially those surrounding the body, can be impacted by a nociceptive and potentially harmful stimulus inflicted on a particular body part. In two temporal order judgment tasks, participants judged which of two lateralized visual stimuli, presented either near or far from the body, had been presented first. Visual stimuli were preceded by nociceptive stimuli, either applied unilaterally (on one single hand) or bilaterally (on both hands simultaneously). In Experiment 1 participants' hands were always placed next to the visual stimuli presented near the trunk, while in Experiment 2 they could also be placed next to the visual stimuli presented far from the trunk. In Experiment 1, the presence of unilateral nociceptive stimuli prioritized the perception of visual stimuli presented in the same side of space as the stimulated hand, with a significantly larger effect when visual stimuli were presented near the body than when presented farther away. Experiment 2 showed that these visuospatial biases were related to the spatial congruency between the hand on which nociceptive stimuli were applied and the visual stimuli, independently of the relative distance of both the stimulated hand and the visual stimuli from the trunk. Indeed, nociceptive stimuli mostly impacted the perception of the closest visual stimuli. It is hypothesized that these crossmodal interactions may rely on representations of the space directly surrounding specific body parts.