We compared the judgment of distance between two simultaneous tactile stimuli applied to different body parts, with judgment of intensity of skin contact of the very same stimulation. Results on normal subjects showed that both tasks bilaterally activate parietal and frontal areas. However, the evaluation of distances on the body surface selectively activated the angular gyrus and the temporo-parieto-occipital junction in the right hemisphere. The different involvement of the brain areas in the two tactile tasks is interpreted as the need for using a Mental Body Representation (MBR) in the distance task, while the judgment of the intensity of skin deflection can be performed without the mediation of the MBR. The present study suggests that the cognitive processes underlying the two tasks are supported by partially different brain networks. In particular, our results show that metric spatial evaluation is lateralized to the right hemisphere.
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