Representations of the body in space
Body representations are flexible and constrained at the same time. While limb amputees often report painful sensations in their missing limb, many examples demonstrate that body representations can be modified in experimental settings even within short time.
I used the rubber hand illusion to investigate necessary and sufficient conditions for the manipulation of body representations. In the rubber hand illusion, the participant observes an artificial hand being touched in synchrony with his own hand (which is hidden from view). After a while, the participants often report the feeling that the unequivocally external object belongs to the own body.
As the physical body undergoes fundamental changes during the process of aging, another important question refers to the age-related changes in body representations. The concept of embodied cognition received a lot of experimental support, and in a recent review paper we argue that many cognitive deficits that are accumulating with increasing age can be explained by bodily changes.
Kuehn, E., Perez-Lopez, M.B., Diersch, N., Döhler, J., Wolbers, T., & Riemer, M. (2018). Embodiment in the aging mind. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 86: 207-225. [link]
Riemer, M., Bublatzky, F., Trojan, J., & Alpers, G.W. (2015). Defensive activation during the rubber hand illusion: Ownership versus proprioceptive drift. Biological Psychology, 109: 86-92. [link]
Riemer, M., Fuchs, X., Bublatzky, F., Kleinböhl, D., Hölzl, R., & Trojan, J. (2014). The rubber hand illusion depends on a congruent mapping between real and artificial fingers. Acta Psychologica, 152: 34- 41. [link]