Dynamic expansion of alert responses to incoming painful stimuli following tool use

Angela Rossetti, Daniele Romano, Nadia Bolognini, Angelo Maravita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peripersonal space is the region closely surrounding our bodies. Within its boundaries, avoidance of threatening objects is crucial for surviving. Here we explored autonomic responses to painful stimuli with respect to the dynamic properties of the peripersonal space in healthy individuals. To this aim, in a series of experiments, we measured the Skin Conductance Response (SCR) to a noxious stimulus approaching and touching the hand, or stopping at different distances (far, near) from it. Results showed that the anticipatory response to an incoming threat is reduced if the stimulus targets a spatial position far away from the body, as compared to a near or bodily location. However, responses to far stimuli change if the boundaries of reachable space are extended further away by active tool use. Noteworthy, SCR is not influenced by a training consisting of a spatial attention task, without active tool use. This evidence sheds novel light on the adaptive role of peripersonal space, showing its importance for the coding of incoming threatening stimuli and its plasticity induced by contingent experience, such as tool use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-494
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Pain anticipation
  • Peripersonal space
  • Skin conductance response
  • Tool use
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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