Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

3
The Brain and Body Awareness

MARCEL KINSBOURNE

The body image was described by Paul Schilder (1935, p. 11) as "the tridimensional image everyone has about himself": One can visualize one's body in front, side, and even back views, though not all three at the same time. Or one can feel one's body as an integrated percept, without separately experiencing the contributions of touch, position sense, and balance. A body part may fleetingly occupy the foreground of attention during pauses in action. Autonomic arousal in emotion is experienced as sensations attributed to the body. These are all instances in which the body is the object of attention. However, even when attending elsewhere than the body, one experiences one's body as an ill-defined somatosensory background, in which the body's parts are not registered individually. One can even lack a clear perception that a body part is absent. For example, even an amputee or someone who feels nothing below the level of a spinal transection feels that he or she is embodied and whole as a person.


IS BODY IMAGE LOCATED IN A SEPARATE NEURAL MODULE?

What neural activity is responsible for awareness of one's body? Is a specific part of the brain responsible for bringing the body into awareness? Is this module, which specifies what the body parts are, separate from the areas that represent where the largely unconscious postural adjustments occur that maintain the body in balance during action? Is it also separate from the cerebral locations of our assembled knowledge and beliefs about our bodies—the "body archive"? Or does the body image have no privileged localization?

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