The Body has a Mind of Its Own, by Sandra Blakeslee and son, discusses the latest research on body mind maps: locations in the brain, connected to locations in the body, providing a representation of what the brain considers to be “its” controllable space in the world.
The key facts are that the brain can recurringly change these body mind maps, and does; and that the brain can make “body” mind maps to locations outside your physical body, and does.
The findings and implications are marvelous.
Introduction [Selected Quotes; Added Emphasis]
“This invisible volume of space around your body out to arm’s length – what neuroscientists call peripersonal space – is part of you. This it not a metaphor, but a recently discovered physiological fact.
“Through a special mapping procedure, your brain annexes this space to your limbs and body, clothing you in it like an extended, ghostly skin.
“Your self does not end where your flesh ends, but suffuses and blends with the world, including other beings. Thus when you ride a horse with confidence and skill, your body maps and the horse’s body maps are blended in shared space.
Introduction, p. 4
Afterword [Selected Quotes; Added Emphasis]
“If your body sense is so labile, so willing to imitate and share in the identity of others, … why doesn’t the ‘you-ness’ part of you ever simply get lost? What accounts for that kernel of selfhood that you feel at the center of your being, to which you always have a reference and always return?
“Learning and plasticity can make crucial and useful adjustments to the way information flows around the myriad circuits of brain, … but at the end of the day, the flexibility is fairly minor compared with the stable long-term configuration bequeathed by your human and primate ancestors. … But if your body mandala [collected set of brain’s body mind maps] were to go on the fritz in one of a hundred ways, … you might suddenly experience … all manner of delusions and misperceptions. … When certain parts of the brain break, certain parts of the mind break; the illusion is spoiled, and the underlying multifariousness of the psyche is exposed.
“The illusion of the self is that self is a kernel, rather than a distributed, emergent system.”
Afterword, pp. 203-204; pp. 207-208; p, 208