Tactile mental body parts representation in obesity

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Obese people's distortions in visually-based mental body-parts representations have been reported in previous studies, but other sensory modalities have largely been neglected. In the present study, we investigated possible differences in tactilely-based body-parts representation between an obese and a healthy-weight group; additionally we explore the possible relationship between the tactile- and the visually-based body representation. Participants were asked to estimate the distance between two tactile stimuli that were simultaneously administered on the arm or on the abdomen, in the absence of visual input. The visually-based body-parts representation was investigated by a visual imagery method in which subjects were instructed to compare the horizontal extension of body part pairs. According to the results, the obese participants overestimated the size of the tactilely-perceived distances more than the healthy-weight group when the arm, and not the abdomen, was stimulated. Moreover, they reported a lower level of accuracy than did the healthy-weight group when estimating horizontal distances relative to their bodies, confirming an inappropriate visually-based mental body representation. Our results imply that body representation disturbance in obese people is not limited to the visual mental domain, but it spreads to the tactilely perceived distances. The inaccuracy was not a generalized tendency but was body-part related.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-969
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 30 2014


  • Body representation
  • Mental imagery
  • Obesity
  • Size perception
  • Somatosensory input

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Medicine(all)


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