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Own-Body Perception  

Dorothy Cowie

It has long been known that there are topographic maps of the body in primary sensory and motor cortices. While these maps have greater representation of sensitive body parts, the fact that we do not feel these distortions in everyday sensory experience indicates that there are also higher-level corrective processes involved in tactile perception. Beyond perceptions on the body, one’s own body is perceived as distinct from external objects, and this perception gives rise to a feeling of ownership over the body—that my body is mine or belongs to me. This arises from both bottom-up and top-down sensory signals. In the rubber-hand illusion, stroking on a fake hand induces the participant to feel that it is their own. Therefore, the sight of a body, and the synchrony of visual and tactile signals on it, are important cues to body ownership. Other forms of multisensory synchrony, including movement and interoceptive signals, also contribute. Prior expectations of the body’s posture and form constrain the extent to which these sensory signals produce feelings of ownership. Since body ownership arises from a multiplicity of signals, it is subject to significant individual differences. There is also plasticity in body representation. This is demonstrated by neural reorganization in individuals with congenital limb loss and by developmental effects. While very young infants are sensitive to the multisensory signals that drive body ownership (e.g., visuotactile synchrony), it takes substantial experience for the tactile sensations of the body to be flexibly coded in appropriate reference frames; likewise, children up to 10 years old tend to embody an appropriately oriented hand more than adults. Understanding own-body representation has important applications, including for tool use, prosthetic design, and virtual reality.


Cognitive Intervention in Older Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment  

Benjamin Boller and Sylvie Belleville

Individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) experience cognitive difficulties and many find themselves in a transitional stage between aging and dementia, making this population a suitable target for cognitive intervention. In MCI, not all cognitive functions are impaired and preserved functions can thus be recruited to compensate for the impact of cognitive impairment. Improving cognition may have a tremendous impact on quality of life and help delay the loss of autonomy that comes with dementia. Several studies have reported evidence of cognitive benefits following cognitive intervention in individuals with MCI. Studies that relied on training memory and attentional control have provided the most consistent evidence for cognitive gains. A few studies have investigated the neurophysiological processes by which these training effects occur. More research is needed to draw clear conclusions on the type of brain processes that are engaged in cognitive training and there are insufficient findings regarding transfer to activities of daily life. Results from recent studies using new technologies such as virtual reality provide encouraging evidence of transfer effects to real-life situations.