Visual-tactile expectations and peripersonal space representations in infancy

Giulia Orioli, Irene Parisi, Jose Van Velzen, Andrew Bremner

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract


Background: The influence of visual motion on the processing of bodily events offers a marker for tracing the development of human infants’ perception of themselves in relation to their peripersonal space. Aims: The aim of the present research was to investigate how infants begin to link visual information about the space surrounding them with tactile information perceived on their bodies, in order to support the construction of a situated representation of their body in the surrounding environment.

Methods: We presented 4- (N = 20) and 8-month-old (N = 20) infants with videos of an unattended visual object moving towards or away from their body, followed by a vibrotactile stimulus on their hands. We recorded the infants’ spontaneous brain activity and analysed their responses to the tactile stimuli.

Results: We found that the 4-month-olds’ somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) were enhanced in response to tactile stimuli preceded by approaching visual motion, demonstrating the early ontogeny of the cortical multisensory foundations of peripersonal space representation. Within the 8-month-olds’ sample, instead, SEPs were increasingly enhanced by (unexpected) tactile stimuli following receding visual motion as age in days increased.

Conclusion: These results show, for the first time, that human infants process somatosensory information differently depending on temporally and spatially distant visual information preceding it. Altogether, these findings provide important clues to the ontogeny of human selfawareness in the first year of life, and suggest important postnatal developments in infants’ expectations about interactions between the body and the external world, in particular within peripersonal space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S27-S27
Number of pages1
JournalCognitive Processing
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021
Event8th International Conference on Spatial Cognition (ICSC 2021) - Online
Duration: 13 Sept 202117 Sept 2021


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