Making Sense of the Body: the Role of Vestibular Signals

In: Multisensory Research
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  • 1 Laboratoire de Neurosciences Intégratives et Adaptatives, Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, NIA UMR 7260, 13331, Marseille, France

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The role of the vestibular system in posture and eye movement control has been extensively described. By contrast, how vestibular signals contribute to bodily perceptions is a more recent research area in the field of cognitive neuroscience. In the present review article, I will summarize recent findings showing that vestibular signals play a crucial role in making sense of the body. First, data will be presented showing that vestibular signals contribute to bodily perceptions ranging from low-level bodily perceptions, such as touch, pain, and the processing of the body’s metric properties, to higher level bodily perceptions, such as the sense of owning a body, the sense of being located within this body (embodiment), and the anchoring of the visuo-spatial perspective to this body. In the second part of the review article, I will show that vestibular information seems to be crucially involved in the visual perception of biological motion and in the visual perception of human body structure. Reciprocally, observing human bodies in motion influences vestibular self-motion perception, presumably due to sensorimotor resonance between the self and others. I will argue that recent advances in the mapping of the human vestibular cortex afford neuroscientific models of the vestibular contributions to human bodily self-consciousness.

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