Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The aim of this study was to investigate whether the recognition of “self body parts” is independent from the recognition of other people's body parts. If this is the case, the ability to recognize “self body parts” should be selectively impaired after lesion involving specific brain areas. To verify this hypothesis, patients with lesion of the right (right brain-damaged [RBD]) or left (left brain-damaged [LBD]) hemisphere and healthy subjects were submitted to a visual matching-to-sample task in two experiments. In the first experiment, stimuli depicted their own body parts or other people's body parts. In the second experiment, stimuli depicted parts of three categories: objects, bodies, and faces. In both experiments, participants were required to decide which of two vertically aligned images (the upper or the lower one) matched the central target stimulus. The results showed that the task indirectly tapped into bodily self-processing mechanisms, in that both LBD patients and normal subjects performed the task better when they visually matched their own, as compared to others', body parts. In contrast, RBD patients did not show such an advantage for self body parts. Moreover, they were more impaired than LBD patients and normal subjects when visually matching their own body parts, whereas this difference was not evident in performing the task with other people's body parts. RBD patients' performance for the other stimulus categories (face, body, object), although worse than LBD patients' and normal subjects' performance, was comparable across categories. These findings suggest that the right hemisphere may be involved in the recognition of self body parts, through a fronto-parietal network.