Somatosensory cortical representation of the body size

Serena Giurgola, Alberto Pisoni, Angelo Maravita, Giuseppe Vallar, Nadia Bolognini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The knowledge of the size of our own body parts is essential for accurately moving in space and efficiently interact with objects. A distorted perceptual representation of the body size often represents a core diagnostic criterion for some psychopathological conditions. The metric representation of the body was shown to depend on somatosensory afferences: local deafferentation indeed causes a perceptual distortion of the size of the anesthetized body part. A specular effect can be induced by altering the cortical map of body parts in the primary somatosensory cortex. Indeed, the present study demonstrates, in healthy adult participants, that repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to the somatosensory cortical map of the hand in both hemispheres causes a perceptual distortion (i.e., an overestimation) of the size of the participants' own hand (Experiments 1–3), which does not involve other body parts (i.e., the foot, Experiment 2). Instead, the stimulation of the inferior parietal lobule of both hemispheres does not affect the perception of the own body size (Experiment 4). These results highlight the role of the primary somatosensory cortex in the building up and updating of the metric of body parts: somatosensory cortical activity not only shapes our somatosensation, it also affects how we perceive the dimension of our body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3534-3547
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2019


  • body representation
  • body size
  • inferior parietal lobule
  • somatosensory cortex
  • TMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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