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Sometimes when a person gets touched on one part of the body they feel it else where and may think it came from a different part of the body. What causes this? Other examples are similar to why you can trick your self into thinking your arms are heavier than they really are. another would be that you can close your eyes and move in circles up and down your arm slowly and then when you guess where u are touching your hand is higher or lower than expected. What causes these things?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The situations you describe involve what is called proprioception or the feedback to the brain of where your arms and limbs are in space. As APengioun mentioned, this is a complicated undertaking and if information is restricted, for example eyes are closed then the sense of where your limbs are gets messed up. As for your title, it's not really neuronal confusion as it is confusion of the sensory system if you can call it that. This includes sensory neurons from your limbs as well as central neurons in the brain that further process your information.

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When our brain works out where a part of our body is in relation to another part of our body, or in relation to anything for that matter, we combine:

  • visual information
  • information about how much our muscles are contracted
  • how much our joints are contracted
  • different forces being applied on our arms/legs or other body parts
  • where it remembers we used to be
  • how much force we applied to move where we wanted to move
  • where we would therefore expect to be
  • and many other things

That's quite a few things that our body relies on! The one that's most fine tuned is our vision. Let's face it, whatever we are actively doing with our hands requires the most skill and knowledge of where our hands etc. are. It is also the system that we rely on the most. But other systems are helpful to make sure we don't fall, grabbing on to things and making sure we reflexively contract the opposite muscles to prevent falling, stop us dropping things and lot's more. It doesn't matter if they're not accurate, they just need to be fast and in doing so they can't be extremely exact.

When we don't use vision, we rely on these other things. They're made to quickly adapt (e.g. hold a shopping bag for a while and when you let go your arm feels light or when you get out of a swimming pool your body feels heavy) and it is important that they do this to allow their functions as listed in the last paragraph.

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