Dec 29, 2015

The body schema: knowing where we are in space

Body schema is a concept used in several disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, sports medicine, and robotics. The neurologist Sir Henry Head originally defined it as a postural model of the body that actively organizes and modifies ‘the impressions produced by incoming sensory impulses in such a way that the final sensation of [body] position, or of locality, rises into consciousness charged with a relation to something that has happened before’.[1] As a postural model that keeps track of limb position, it plays an important role in control of action. It involves aspects of both central (brain processes) and peripheral (sensory, proprioceptive) systems. Thus, a body schema can be considered the collection of processes that registers the posture of one’s body parts in space. The schema is updated during body movement. This is typically a non-conscious process, and is used primarily for spatial organization of action. It is therefore a pragmatic representation of the body’s spatial properties, which includes the length of limbs and limb segments, their arrangement, the configuration of the segments in space, and the shape of the body surface.[2][3][4][5] Body schema also plays an important role in the integration and use of tools by humans.[6][7][8][9]