The space surrounding the body, known by scientists as 'peripersonal space', which has previously been thought of as having a gradual boundary, has been given physical limits by the new research into the relationship between anxiety and personal space.
The research suggested that the specific distance between individuals varies. Those with anxiety traits were found to have larger peripersonal space.
In an experiment, Dr Chiara Sambo and lead author Dr Giandomenico Iannetti from UCL recorded the blink reflex - a defensive response to potentially dangerous stimuli at varying distances from subject's face. They then compared the reflex data to the results of an anxiety test where subjects rated their levels of anxiety in various situations.
Those who scored highly on the anxiety test tended to react more strongly to stimuli 20cm from their face than subjects who got low scores on the anxiety test. Researchers classified those who reacted more strongly to further away stimuli as having a large 'defensive peripersonal space' (DPPS).
A larger DPPS means that those with high anxiety scores perceive threats as closer than non-anxious individuals when the stimulus is the same distance away. The research has led scientists to think that the brain controls the strength of defensive reflexes even though it cannot initiate them.
Scientists hope that the findings can be used as a test to link defensive behaviours to levels of anxiety.
The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
--ANI (Posted on 28-08-2013)