Tool-use: An open window into body representation and its plasticity

Marie Martel, Lucilla Cardinali, Alice C Roy, Alessandro Farnè

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the last decades, scientists have questioned the origin of the exquisite human mastery of tools. Seminal studies in monkeys, healthy participants and brain-damaged patients have primarily focused on the plastic changes that tool-use induces on spatial representations. More recently, we focused on the modifications tool-use must exert on the sensorimotor system and highlighted plastic changes at the level of the body representation used by the brain to control our movements, i.e., the Body Schema. Evidence is emerging for tool-use to affect also more visually and conceptually based representations of the body, such as the Body Image. Here we offer a critical review of the way different tool-use paradigms have been, and should be, used to try disentangling the critical features that are responsible for tool incorporation into different body representations. We will conclude that tool-use may offer a very valuable means to investigate high-order body representations and their plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-101
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number1-2
Early online date17 Jun 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Body Image
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Space Perception/physiology

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