How Tool Use Changes the Brain

You Are What You Touch: How Tool Use Changes the Brain's Representations of the Body

Rapid Assimilation of External Objects Into the Body Schema
Thomas A. Carlson1,2,3⇓,
George Alvarez2,
Daw-an Wu2 and
Frans A.J. Verstraten3
+ Author Affiliations
1University of Maryland, College Park
2Harvard University
3Helmholtz Institute, Experimental Psychology Division, Utrecht University
Thomas A. Carlson, Department of Psychology, 1145A Biology/Psychology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740 E-mail:

When a warrior picks up a sword for battle, do sword and soldier become one? The notion of an extended sense of the body has been the topic of philosophical discussion for more than a century and more recently has been subjected to empirical tests by psychologists and neuroscientists. We used a unique afterimage paradigm to test if, and under what conditions, objects are integrated into an extended body sense. Our experiments provide empirical support for the notion that objects can be integrated into an extended sense of the body. Our findings further indicate that this extended body sense is highly plastic, quickly assimilating objects that are in physical contact with the observer. Finally, we show that this extended body sense is limited to first-order extensions, thus constraining how far one can extend oneself into the environment.

Read more here from Scientific America

Original research article here: