Differential influence of hands posture on mental rotation of hands and feet in left and right handers
The representation of the body in the brain is continuously updated with regard to peripheral factors such as position or movement of body parts. In the present study, we investigated the effects of arm posture on the mental rotation of hands and feet. Sixteen right-handed and ten left-handed participants verbally judged the laterality of visually presented pictures of hands and feet in two different postural conditions. In one condition they placed their right hand on their right knee and their left hand behind the back, in the other condition the hand position was reversed. For right-handed participants response times for the laterality judgment of right hands increased when participants kept their right hand behind the back. This was not found for images of the left hand nor for images of the feet. For the left-handed participants, there was no effect of arm posture on hand or feet stimulus judgments. Thus, the body-part posture effect on mental rotation was found to be specific for the side and the body part for which the posture was modified only in right-handed participants, but it was absent for left-handed participants. For both samples, we also found a progressive disruption of the mental rotation function depending on the view from which the body parts were seen (i.e. dorsal, thumb/big toe, palm/plantar, little finger/toe). Posture and view effects on body parts representations are discussed with respect to proprioception, handedness, visual familiarity and the influence of anatomical joint constraints on motor imagery.