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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

March 2011, Vol. 23, No. 3, Pages 503-513
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21484)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Viewing One's Own Face Being Touched Modulates Tactile Perception: An fMRI Study
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The perception of tactile stimuli on the face is modulated if subjects concurrently observe a face being touched; this effect, termed visual remapping of touch (VRT), is maximum for observing one's own face. In the present fMRI study, we investigated the neural basis of the VRT effect. Participants in the scanner received tactile stimuli, near the perceptual threshold, on their right, left, or both cheeks. Concurrently, they watched movies depicting their own face, another person's face, or a ball that could be touched or only approached by human fingers. Participants were requested to distinguish between unilateral and bilateral tactile stimulation. Behaviorally, perception of tactile stimuli was modulated by viewing a tactile stimulation, with a stronger effect when viewing one's own face being touched. In terms of brain activity, viewing touch was related with an enhanced activity in the ventral intraparietal area. The specific effect of viewing touch on oneself was instead related with a reduced activity in both the ventral premotor cortex and the somatosensory cortex. The present findings suggest that VRT is supported by a network of fronto-parietal areas. The ventral intraparietal area might remap visual information about touch onto tactile processing. Ventral premotor cortex might specifically modulate multisensory interaction when sensory information is related to one's own body. Then this activity might back project to the somatosensory cortices, thus affecting tactile perception.