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The recalibration of tactile perception during tool use is body-part specific

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Two decades of research have demonstrated that using a tool modulates spatial representations of the body. Whether this embodiment is specific to representations of the tool-using limb or extends to representations of other body parts has received little attention. Several studies of other perceptual phenomena have found that modulations to the primary somatosensory representation of the hand transfers to the face, due in part to their close proximity in primary somatosensory cortex. In the present study, we investigated whether tool-induced recalibration of tactile perception on the hand transfers to the cheek. Participants verbally estimated the distance between two tactile points applied to either their hand or face, before and after using a hand-shaped tool. Tool use recalibrated tactile distance perception on the hand-in line with previous findings-but left perception on the cheek unchanged. This finding provides support for the idea that embodiment is body-part specific. Furthermore, it suggests that tool-induced perceptual recalibration occurs at a level of somatosensory processing, where representations of the hand and face have become functionally disentangled.

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