Dysmelia

 

dysmelic-pic People born without arms and hands learn to perform all everyday tasks with their feet or mouth. In addition to being an inspiration, they are a fascinating model for how the brain can change to respond to different sensory and motor experience. 

 

Many parts of the brain show preferential responses to hands – viewing them, acting with them and feeling through them. What do these brain regions do in a person who has never had hands? How does your experience in using objects with your feet rather than your hands affect the perception of tools?

We have recently showed that despite having no experience in using their hands to manipulate tools, dysmelic people have typical responses for viewing hands and tools, and brain these regions overlap and connect to action networks similarly to what is found in typically developed people.

This shows that the connection between hands and tools is deeply ingrained in brain organization, and doesn’t depend on our own experience in using the two together ourselves.

We are now investigating the role of hand sensory-motor experience in viewing actions and in the organization of the early sensory and motor cortices.