What is it about?
The visuospatial system integrates inner and outer functional processes, organizing spatial, temporal, and social interactions between brain, body, and environment. These processes involve sensorimotor networks like the eye–hand circuit, which is especially important to primates, given their reliance on vision and touch as primary sensory modalities and the use of the hands in social and environmental interactions. At the same time, visuospatial cognition is intimately connected with egocentric memory, self-awareness, and simulation capacity. In the present article, we review issues associated with investigating visuospatial integration in extinct human groups through the use of anatomical and behavioral data gleaned from the paleontological and archaeological records. In modern humans, paleoneurological analyses have demonstrated noticeable and unique morphological changes in parietal cortex, an area crucial to visuospatial management. Archaeological data provides information on hand-tool interaction, the spatial behavior of past populations and their interaction with the environment (e.g. in domains like landscape use and navigation, the spatial relations implicit in social networks, etc.). Visuospatial integration may represent a critical bridge between extended cognition, self-awareness, and social perception. As such, visuospatial functions are relevant to the hypothesis that human evolution is characterized by changes in brain–body–environment interactions and relations, which enhance possibilities for integrating inner and outer cognitive components through neural plasticity and a specialized embodiment capacity. We therefore advocate the investigation of visuospatial functions in past populations through the paleoneurological study of anatomical elements and archaeological analysis of visuospatial behaviors.
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This page is a summary of: Visuospatial Integration: Paleoanthropological and Archaeological Perspectives, January 2018, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-93776-2_19.
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