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Publication Detail
A geometric model of defensive peripersonal space
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Journal Article
  • Authors:
    Bufacchi RJ, Liang M, Griffin LD, Iannetti GD
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    218, 225
  • Journal:
    Journal of Neurophysiology
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
© the American Physiological Society.Potentially harmful stimuli occurring within the defensive peripersonal space (DPPS), a protective area surrounding the body, elicit stronger defensive reactions. The spatial features of the DPPS are poorly defined and limited to descriptive estimates of its extent along a single dimension. Here we postulated a family of geometric models of the DPPS, to address two important questions with respect to its spatial features: What is its fine-grained topography? How does the nervous system represent the body area to be defended? As a measure of the DPPS, we used the strength of the defensive blink reflex elicited by electrical stimulation of the hand (hand-blink reflex, HBR), which is reliably modulated by the position of the stimulated hand in egocentric coordinates. We tested the goodness of fit of the postulated models to HBR data from six experiments in which we systematically explored the HBR modulation by hand position in both head-centered and body-centered coordinates. The best-fitting model indicated that 1) the nervous system’s representation of the body area defended by the HBR can be approximated by a half-ellipsoid centered on the face and 2) the DPPS extending from this area has the shape of a bubble elongated along the vertical axis. Finally, the empirical observation that the HBR is modulated by hand position in head-centered coordinates indicates that the DPPS is anchored to the face. The modeling approach described in this article can be generalized to describe the spatial modulation of any defensive response.
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