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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 May 2019 - 17 May 2019

Human Studies


PLoS One



Experimentally induced pain does not influence updating of peripersonal space and body representations following tool-use.


Vittersø AD, Halicka M, Buckingham G, Proulx MJ, Bultitude JH
PLoS One. 2019; 14(5):e0210045.
PMID: 31095562.


Representations of the body and peripersonal space can be distorted for people with some chronic pain conditions. Experimental pain induction can give rise to similar, but transient distortions in healthy individuals. However, spatial and bodily representations are dynamic, and constantly update as we interact with objects in our environment. It is unclear whether induced pain disrupts the mechanisms involved in updating these representations. In the present study, we sought to investigate the effect of induced pain on the updating of peripersonal space and body representations during and following tool-use. We compared performance under three conditions (pain, active placebo, neutral) on a visuotactile crossmodal congruency task and a tactile distance judgement task to measure updating of peripersonal space and body representations, respectively. Consistent with previous findings, the difference in crossmodal interference from visual distractors in the same compared to opposite visual field to the tactile target was less when tools were crossed than uncrossed. This suggests an extension of peripersonal space to incorporate the tips of the tools. Also consistent with previous findings, estimates of the felt tactile distance judgements decreased after active tool-use. In contrast to our predictions, however, we found no evidence that pain interfered with performance on either task when compared to the control conditions. Our findings suggest that the updating of peripersonal space and body representations is not disrupted by induced pain. That is, experiencing acute pain does not give rise to distorted representations of the body and peripersonal space that can be present in people with chronic pain conditions.