Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Peripersonal space is a multisensory representation relying on the processing of tactile and visual stimuli presented on and close to different body parts. The most studied peripersonal space representation is perihand space (PHS), a highly plastic representation modulated following tool use and by the rapid approach of visual objects. Given these properties, PHS may serve different sensorimotor functions, including guidance of voluntary actions such as object grasping. Strong support for this hypothesis would derive from evidence that PHS plastic changes occur before the upcoming movement rather than after its initiation, yet to date, such evidence is scant. Here, we tested whether action-dependent modulation of PHS, behaviorally assessed via visuotactile perception, may occur before an overt movement as early as the action planning phase. To do so, we probed tactile and visuotactile perception at different time points before and during the grasping action. Results showed that visuotactile perception was more strongly affected during the planning phase (250 msec after vision of the target) than during a similarly static but earlier phase (50 msec after vision of the target). Visuotactile interaction was also enhanced at the onset of hand movement, and it further increased during subsequent phases of hand movement. Such a visuotactile interaction featured interference effects during all phases from action planning onward as well as a facilitation effect at the movement onset. These findings reveal that planning to grab an object strengthens the multisensory interaction of visual information from the target and somatosensory information from the hand. Such early updating of the visuotactile interaction reflects multisensory processes supporting motor planning of actions.