Science-- there's something for everyone

Saturday, January 9, 2010

We see things differently with hands

This study falls under the category of studies I hope I never have a chance to volunteer for.

Researchers Tamar R. Makin, Meytal Wilf, Ehud Zohary and Isabella Schwartz have found that having hands affects visuospatial perception. Yes, you read that right.

Visuospatial perception is simply the ability to place objects in space. It’s the sense we use to judge distances and orient ourselves and parts of our bodies in space.

Volunteers with either right or left hands amputations were shown a cross in the center of a screen. White squares were briefly shown on either side of the cross, and the subjects were asked which white square was closer to the central cross.

People missing their left hands routinely thought the left square was closer to the center than it actually was. Conversely, people with right hand amputations underestimated the distance to the right square.

Aside from being a fascinating look at brain function, the researchers hope that this new finding will have implications in treating spatial hemineglect, a condition in which patients cannot perceive objects on one side. Hemineglect is caused by a specific brain injury but is often associated with a hand injury.