A sensorimotor network for the bodily self

Francesca Ferri, Francesca Frassinetti, Martina Ardizzi, Marcello Costantini, Vittorio Gallese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroscientists and philosophers, among others, have long questioned the contribution of bodily experience to the constitution of self-consciousness. Contemporary research answers this question by focusing on the notions of sense of agency and/or sense of ownership. Recently, however, it has been proposed that the bodily self might also be rooted in bodily motor experience, that is, in the experience of oneself as instantiating a bodily structure that enables a specific range of actions. In the current fMRI study, we tested this hypothesis by making participants undergo a hand laterality judgment task, which is known to be solved by simulating a motor rotation of one's own hand. The stimulus to be judged was either the participant's own hand or the hand of a stranger. We used this task to investigate whether mental rotation of pictures depicting one's own hands leads to a different activation of the sensorimotor areas as compared with the mental rotation of pictures depicting another's hand. We revealed a neural network for the general representation of the bodily self encompassing the SMA and pre-SMA, the anterior insula, and the occipital cortex, bilaterally. Crucially, the representation of one's own dominant hand turned out to be primarily confined to the left premotor cortex. Our data seem to support the existence of a sense of bodily self encased within the sensorimotor system. We propose that such a sensorimotor representation of the bodily self might help us to differentiate our own body from that of others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1584-1595
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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