The Distorted Self: the multidimensionality of size representation of the hands and face in typical, atypical and clinical populations

Mora, Laura. 2020. The Distorted Self: the multidimensionality of size representation of the hands and face in typical, atypical and clinical populations. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Knowing the size of our body is essential in order to use it effectively. Therefore, a model of the size and shape of the body needs to be stored. This model is characterised by typical distortions and is subject to active modulation due to constant interaction amongst stored representations, multisensory information and experience. The aim of this thesis was to understand the representation of the size of the body, by focusing on two particularly meaningful body parts: the hands and the face. Different paradigms (localisation task and size estimation task) were used to measure their perceived size, both in healthy adult population (typical and atypical) and in clinical population. Patterns of distortions for the size representation of the hands and face were found to be primarily linked to influences from functionality, usage and experience. Modulation of the representation of the size of these body parts due to long-term practice was explored in groups of experts (magicians and sign language interpreters), in which distortions were specifically altered in line with the type of expertise. A study of clinical populations (a tumour patient and a group of patients with Personal Neglect) shed more light on how damage to different cortical structures (sensorimotor cortex and parietal areas) can influence size representation. Lastly, the neuroplasticity of size representation was explored by investigating bottom-up and top-down modulation. In detail, tDCS over visual areas modulated the representation of the face; whereas passive sensory stimulation modulated the size of the hands, confirming the cross-modality specificity in body part representation. Collectively, this thesis has broadened the understanding of the size representation of hands and face, demonstrating the multidimensional nature of body representation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Body representation, Body distortions, Hand size, Face size, Localisation task, Personal Neglect, tDCS, passive sensory stimulation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



25 July 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2021 11:43

Last Modified:

25 Jul 2023 01:26


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