Vision and touch through the looking glass in a case of crossmodal extinction.
Maravita A., Spence C., Clarke K., Husain M., Driver J.
When observing ourselves in a mirror, we see our body and adjacent objects (e.g. a comb or razor) projecting the image of distant objects. Are these recoded by the brain as reflecting stimuli in peripersonal space? To address this, we exploited the neuropsychological phenomenon of crossmodal, visual-tactile extinction, as shown by patient BV following right-hemisphere stroke. In such crossmodal extinction, a right visual event impairs the perception of a simultaneous left tactile event. In BV, the right visual stimulus (an LED flash) induced more extinction of touch on the contralesional left hand when presented near the ipsilesional right hand, than when distant from it. This agrees with previous data in patients and monkeys showing that visual-tactile interactions are strongest within peripersonal space. Crucially, we also found that an ipsilesional flash produced more extinction when observed as the distant mirror-reflection of an LED that lay close to the ipsilesional hand, rather than as a distant LED flash projecting an equivalent visual image directly. This suggests that in BV, seeing his own hand via a mirror activates a representation of peripersonal space around that hand, not of the extrapersonal space suggested by the distant visual image in the mirror. We discuss the possible neural basis of interpreting mirror reflections.