In the ‘rubber hand illusion’, the sight of brushing of a rubber hand at the same time as brushing of the person’s own hidden hand is sufficient to produce a feeling of ownership of the fake hand. We have previously shown that this illusion is associated with activity in the multisensory areas, most notably the ventral premotor cortex (Ehrsson et al. Science 305:875–877, 2004). However, it remains to be demonstrated that this illusion does not simply reflect the dominant role of vision, and that the premotor activity does not reflect a visual representation of an object near the hand. To address these issues we introduce a somatic ‘rubber hand illusion’. The experimenter moved the blindfolded participants’ left index finger so that it touched the fake hand, and simultaneously, he touched the participants’ real right hand synchronizing the touches as perfectly as possible. After about 9.7 seconds this stimulation elicited an illusion that one was touching one’s own hand. We scanned brain activity during this illusion and two control conditions, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Activity in the ventral premotor cortices, intraparietal cortices, and the cerebellum was associated with the illusion of touching one’s own hand. Furthermore, the rated strength of the illusion correlated with the degree of premotor and cerebellar activity. This finding suggests that the activity in these areas reflects the detection of congruent multisensory signals from one’s own body, rather than of visual representations. We propose that this could be the mechanism for the feeling of body ownership.
premotor cortex; posterior parietal cortex; cerebellum; rubber hand illusion; functional magnetic resonance imaging; body image; self recognition
A weakened sense of self may contribute to psychotic experiences. Body ownership, one component of self-awareness, can be studied with the rubber hand illusion (RHI). Watching a rubber hand being stroked while one's unseen hand is stroked synchronously can lead to a sense of ownership over the rubber hand, a shift in perceived position of the real hand, and a limb-specific drop in stimulated hand temperature. We aimed to assess the RHI in schizophrenia using quantifiable measures: proprioceptive drift and stimulation-dependent changes in hand temperature.
The RHI was elicited in 24 schizophrenia patients and 21 matched controls by placing their unseen hand adjacent to a visible rubber hand and brushing real and rubber hands synchronously or asynchronously. Perceived finger location was measured before and after stimulation. Hand temperature was taken before and during stimulation. Subjective strength of the illusion was assessed by a questionnaire.
Across groups, the RHI was stronger during synchronous stimulation, indicated by self-report and proprioceptive drift. Patients reported a stronger RHI than controls. Self-reported strength of RHI was associated with schizotypy in controls Proprioceptive drift was larger in patients, but only following synchronous stimulation. Further, we observed stimulation-dependent changes in skin temperature. During right hand stimulation, temperature dropped in the stimulated hand and rose in the unstimulated hand. Interestingly, induction of RHI led to an out-of-body experience in one patient, linking body disownership and psychotic experiences.
The RHI is quantitatively and qualitatively stronger in schizophrenia. These findings suggest that patients have a more flexible body representation and weakened sense of self, and potentially indicate abnormalities in temporo-parietal networks implicated in body ownership. Further, results suggest that these body ownership disturbances might be at the heart of a subset of the pathognomonic delusions of passivity.
While the sense of bodily ownership has now been widely investigated through the rubber hand illusion (RHI), very little is known about the sense of disownership. It has been hypothesized that the RHI also affects the ownership feelings towards the participant's own hand, as if the rubber hand replaced the participant's actual hand. Somatosensory changes observed in the participants' hand while experiencing the RHI have been taken as evidence for disownership of their real hand. Here we propose a theoretical framework to disambiguate whether such somatosensory changes are to be ascribed to the disownership of the real hand or rather to the anomalous visuo-proprioceptive conflict experienced by the participant during the RHI.
In experiment 1, reaction times (RTs) to tactile stimuli delivered to the participants' hand slowed down following the establishment of the RHI. In experiment 2, the misalignment of visual and proprioceptive inputs was obtained via prismatic displacement, a situation in which ownership of the seen hand was doubtless. This condition slowed down the participants' tactile RTs. Thus, similar effects on touch perception emerged following RHI and prismatic displacement. Both manipulations also induced a proprioceptive drift, toward the fake hand in the first experiment and toward the visual position of the participants' hand in the second experiment.
These findings reveal that somatosensory alterations in the experimental hand resulting from the RHI result from cross-modal mismatch between the seen and felt position of the hand. As such, they are not necessarily a signature of disownership.
Recent studies have shown that the feeling of body ownership can be fooled by simple visuo-tactile manipulations. Perceptual illusions have been reported in which participants sense phantom touch seen on a rubber hand (rubber hand illusion). While previous studies used homologous limbs for those experiments, we here examined an illusion where people feel phantom touch on a left rubber hand when they see it brushed simultaneously with brushes applied to their right hand. Thus, we investigated a referral of touch from the right to the left hand (across the body midline). Since it is known from animal studies that tactile illusions may alter early sensory processing, we expected a modulation of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) corresponding to this illusion. Neuromagnetic source imaging of the functional topographic organization in SI showed a shift in left SI, associated with the strength of the referral of touch. Hence, we argue that SI seems to be closely associated with this perceptual illusion. The results suggest that the transfer of tactile information across the body midline could be mediated by neurons with bilateral tactile receptive fields (most likely BA2).
Although visual information seems to affect thermal perception (e.g. red color is associated with heat), previous studies have failed to demonstrate the interaction between visual and thermal senses. However, it has been reported that humans feel an illusory thermal sensation in conjunction with an apparently-thermal visual stimulus placed on a prosthetic hand in the rubber hand illusion (RHI) wherein an individual feels that a prosthetic (rubber) hand belongs to him/her. This study tests the possibility that the ownership of the body surface on which a visual stimulus is placed enhances the likelihood of a visual-thermal interaction. We orthogonally manipulated three variables: induced hand-ownership, visually-presented thermal information, and tactically-presented physical thermal information. Results indicated that the sight of an apparently-thermal object on a rubber hand that is illusorily perceived as one's own hand affects thermal judgments about the object physically touching this hand. This effect was not observed without the RHI. The importance of ownership of a body part that is touched by the visual object on the visual-thermal interaction is discussed.
Rubber hand illusion (RHI) is a subject's illusion of the self-ownership of a rubber hand that was touched synchronously with their own hand. Although previous studies have confirmed that this illusion disappears when the rubber hand was touched asynchronously with the subject's hand, the minimum temporal discrepancy of these two events for attenuation of RHI has not been examined.
In this study, various temporal discrepancies between visual and tactile stimulations were introduced by using a visual feedback delay experimental setup, and RHI effects in each temporal discrepancy condition were systematically tested. The results showed that subjects felt significantly greater RHI effects with temporal discrepancies of less than 300 ms compared with longer temporal discrepancies. The RHI effects on reaching performance (proprioceptive drift) showed similar conditional differences.
Our results first demonstrated that a temporal discrepancy of less than 300 ms between visual stimulation of the rubber hand and tactile stimulation to the subject's own hand is preferable to induce strong sensation of RHI. We suggest that the time window of less than 300 ms is critical for multi-sensory integration processes constituting the self-body image.
Demonstrations that the brain can incorporate a fake limb into our bodily representations when stroked in synchrony with our unseen real hand [(the rubber hand illusion (RHI)] are now commonplace. Such demonstrations highlight the dynamic flexibility of the perceptual body image, but evidence for comparable RHI-sensitive changes in the body schema used for action is less common. Recent evidence from the RHI supports a distinction between bodily representations for perception (body image) and for action (body schema) (Kammers et al. in Neuropsychologia 44:2430–2436, 2006). The current study challenges and extends these findings by demonstrating that active synchronous stroking of a brush not only elicits perceptual embodiment of a fake limb (body image) but also affects subsequent reaching error (body schema). Participants were presented with two moving fake left hands. When only one was synchronous during active touch, ownership was claimed for the synchronous hand only and the accuracy of reaching was consistent with control of the synchronous hand. When both fake hands were synchronous, ownership was claimed over both, but only one was controlled. Thus, it would appear that fake limbs can be incorporated into the body schema as well as the body image, but while multiple limbs can be incorporated into the body image, the body schema can accommodate only one.
Rubber hand illusion; Body schema; Body image; Supernumerary limb illusion; Sensorimotor integration
The emergence of self-consciousness depends on several processes: those of body ownership, attributing self-identity to the body, and those of self-location, localizing our sense of self. Studies of phenomena like the rubber-hand illusion (RHi) and out-of-body experience (OBE) investigate these processes, respectively for representations of a body-part and the full-body. It is supposed that RHi only target processes related to body-part representations, while OBE only relates to full-body representations. The fundamental question whether the body-part and the full-body illusions relate to each other is nevertheless insufficiently investigated. In search for a link between body-part and full-body illusions in the brain we developed a behavioral task combining adapted versions of the RHi and OBE. Furthermore, for the investigation of this putative link we investigated the role of sensory and motor cues. We established a spatial dissociation between visual and proprioceptive feedback of a hand perceived through virtual reality in rest or action. Two experimental measures were introduced: one for the body-part illusion, the proprioceptive drift of the perceived localization of the hand, and one for the full-body illusion, the shift in subjective-straight-ahead (SSA). In the rest and action conditions it was observed that the proprioceptive drift of the left hand and the shift in SSA toward the manipulation side are equivalent. The combined effect was dependent on the manipulation of the visual representation of body parts, rejecting any main or even modulatory role for relevant motor programs. Our study demonstrates for the first time that there is a systematic relationship between the body-part illusion and the full-body illusion, as shown by our measures. This suggests a link between the representations in the brain of a body-part and the full-body, and consequently a common mechanism underpinning both forms of ownership and self-location.
self-consciousness; bodily self-consciousness; body ownership; self-location; visual; motor
Our sense of body ownership is profound and familiar, yet it may be misleading. In the rubber-hand illusion, synchronous tactile and visual stimulation lead to the experience that a rubber hand is actually one's own. This illusion is stronger in schizophrenia. Given the evidence that ketamine, a noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist reproduces symptoms of schizophrenia, we sought to determine whether the rubber-hand illusion is augmented by ketamine.
We studied 15 healthy volunteers in a within-subjects placebo-controlled study. All volunteers carried out two versions of the rubber-hand task, each under both placebo and ketamine infusions. In one task, they saw a rubber hand being stroked in synchrony with tactile stimulation of their real, hidden hand. In the other, stroking of the real and rubber hands was asynchronous. We recorded subjective changes in sense of ownership, as well as participants' ability to localize their hidden hand.
Ketamine was associated with significant increases in subjective measures of the illusion and in hand mislocalization. Although asynchronous visuotactile stimulation attenuates the strength of the illusion during both placebo and ketamine, there remained a significant illusory effect during asynchronous visuotactile stimulation under ketamine compared with placebo. The strength of the illusion during asynchronous visuotactile stimulation correlated with other subjective effects of the drug.
Ketamine mimics the perturbed sense of body ownership seen in schizophrenia, suggesting that it produces a comparable alteration in integration of information across sensory domains and in the subjective and behavioral consequences of such integration.
Body ownership; ketamine; psychosis; rubber hand
Body-awareness relies on the representation of both interoceptive and exteroceptive percepts coming from one's body. However, the exact relationship and possible interaction of interoceptive and exteroceptive systems for body-awareness remain unknown. We sought to understand for the first time, to our knowledge, the interaction between interoceptive and exteroceptive awareness of the body. First, we measured interoceptive awareness with an established heartbeat monitoring task. We, then, used a multi-sensory-induced manipulation of body-ownership (e.g. Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI)) and we quantified the extent to which participants experienced ownership over a foreign body-part using behavioural, physiological and introspective measures. The results suggest that interoceptive sensitivity predicts the malleability of body representations, that is, people with low interoceptive sensitivity experienced a stronger illusion of ownership in the RHI. Importantly, this effect was not simply owing to a poor proprioceptive representation or differences in autonomic states of one's body prior to the multi-sensory stimulation, suggesting that interoceptive awareness modulates the online integration of multi-sensory body-percepts.
interoception; multi-sensory; body-awareness
In the Rubber Hand Illusion, the feeling of ownership of a rubber hand displaced from a participant's real occluded hand is evoked by synchronously stroking both hands with paintbrushes. A change of perceived finger location towards the rubber hand (proprioceptive drift) has been reported to correlate with this illusion. To measure the time course of proprioceptive drift during the Rubber Hand Illusion, we regularly interrupted stroking (performed by robot arms) to measure perceived finger location. Measurements were made by projecting a probe dot into the field of view (using a semi-transparent mirror) and asking participants if the dot is to the left or to the right of their invisible hand (Experiment 1) or to adjust the position of the dot to that of their invisible hand (Experiment 2). We varied both the measurement frequency (every 10 s, 40 s, 120 s) and the mode of stroking (synchronous, asynchronous, just vision). Surprisingly, with frequent measurements, proprioceptive drift occurs not only in the synchronous stroking condition but also in the two control conditions (asynchronous stroking, just vision). Proprioceptive drift in the synchronous stroking condition is never higher than in the just vision condition. Only continuous exposure to asynchronous stroking prevents proprioceptive drift and thus replicates the differences in drift reported in the literature. By contrast, complementary subjective ratings (questionnaire) show that the feeling of ownership requires synchronous stroking and is not present in the asynchronous stroking condition. Thus, subjective ratings and drift are dissociated. We conclude that different mechanisms of multisensory integration are responsible for proprioceptive drift and the feeling of ownership. Proprioceptive drift relies on visuoproprioceptive integration alone, a process that is inhibited by asynchronous stroking, the most common control condition in Rubber Hand Illusion experiments. This dissociation implies that conclusions about feelings of ownership cannot be drawn from measuring proprioceptive drift alone.
Increasing evidence suggests that the basic foundations of the self lie in the brain systems that represent the body. Specific sensorimotor stimulation has been shown to alter the bodily self. However, little is known about how disconnection of the brain from the body affects the phenomenological sense of the body and the self. Spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who exhibit massively reduced somatomotor processes below the lesion in the absence of brain damage are suitable for testing the influence of body signals on two important components of the self–the sense of disembodiment and body ownership. We recruited 30 SCI patients and 16 healthy participants, and evaluated the following parameters: (i) depersonalization symptoms, using the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale (CDS), and (ii) measures of body ownership, as quantified by the rubber hand illusion (RHI) paradigm. We found higher CDS scores in SCI patients, which show increased detachment from their body and internal bodily sensations and decreasing global body ownership with higher lesion level. The RHI paradigm reveals no alterations in the illusory ownership of the hand between SCI patients and controls. Yet, there was no typical proprioceptive drift in SCI patients with intact tactile sensation on the hand, which might be related to cortical reorganization in these patients. These results suggest that disconnection of somatomotor inputs to the brain due to spinal cord lesions resulted in a disturbed sense of an embodied self. Furthermore, plasticity-related cortical changes might influence the dynamics of the bodily self.
During voluntary hand movement, we sense that we generate the movement and that the hand is a part of our body. These feelings of control over bodily actions, or the sense of agency, and the ownership of body parts are two fundamental aspects of the way we consciously experience our bodies. However, little is known about how these processes are functionally linked. Here, we introduce a version of the rubber hand illusion in which participants control the movements of the index finger of a model hand, which is in full view, by moving their own right index finger. We demonstrated that voluntary finger movements elicit a robust illusion of owning the rubber hand and that the senses of ownership and agency over the model hand can be dissociated. We systematically varied the relative timing of the finger movements (synchronous versus asynchronous), the mode of movement (active versus passive), and the position of the model hand (anatomically congruent versus incongruent positions). Importantly, asynchrony eliminated both ownership and agency, passive movements abolished the sense of agency but left ownership intact, and incongruent positioning of the model hand diminished ownership but did not eliminate agency. These findings provide evidence for a double dissociation of ownership and agency, suggesting that they represent distinct cognitive processes. Interestingly, we also noted that the sense of agency was stronger when the hand was perceived to be a part of the body, and only in this condition did we observe a significant correlation between the subjects’ ratings of agency and ownership. We discuss this in the context of possible differences between agency over owned body parts and agency over actions that involve interactions with external objects. In summary, the results obtained in this study using a simple moving rubber hand illusion paradigm extend previous findings on the experience of ownership and agency and shed new light on their relationship.
sense of ownership; sense of agency; rubber hand illusion; self-recognition; body perception; multisensory integration; volition; voluntary movement
In the rubber hand illusion, perceived hand ownership can be transferred to a rubber hand after synchronous visual and tactile stimulation. Perceived body ownership and self–other relation are foundational for development of self-awareness, imitation, and empathy, which are all affected in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We examined the rubber hand illusion in children with and without ASD. Children with ASD were initially less susceptible to the illusion than the comparison group, yet showed the effects of the illusion after 6 minutes. Delayed susceptibility to the illusion may result from atypical multisensory temporal integration and/or an unusually strong reliance on proprioception. Children with ASD who displayed less empathy were significantly less likely to experience the illusion than those with more intact ability to express empathy. A better understanding of body representation in ASD may elucidate neural underpinnings of social deficits, thus informing future intervention approaches.
autism; proprioceptive; visual; tactile; multisensory integration; empathy
Subjects perceived touch sensations as arising from a table (or a rubber hand) when both the table (or the rubber hand) and their own real hand were repeatedly tapped and stroked in synchrony with the real hand hidden from view. If the table or rubber hand was then 'injured', subjects displayed a strong skin conductance response (SCR) even though nothing was done to the real hand. Sensations could even be projected to anatomically impossible locations. The illusion was much less vivid, as indicated by subjective reports and SCR, if the real hand was simultaneously visible during stroking, or if the real hand was hidden but touched asynchronously. The fact that the illusion could be significantly diminished when the real hand was simultaneously visible suggests that the illusion and associated SCRs were due to perceptual assimilation of the table (or rubber hand) into one's body image rather than associative conditioning. These experiments demonstrate the malleability of body image and the brain's remarkable capacity for detecting statistical correlations in the sensory input.
The concept of an individual swapping his or her body with that of another person has captured the imagination of writers and artists for decades. Although this topic has not been the subject of investigation in science, it exemplifies the fundamental question of why we have an ongoing experience of being located inside our bodies. Here we report a perceptual illusion of body-swapping that addresses directly this issue. Manipulation of the visual perspective, in combination with the receipt of correlated multisensory information from the body was sufficient to trigger the illusion that another person's body or an artificial body was one's own. This effect was so strong that people could experience being in another person's body when facing their own body and shaking hands with it. Our results are of fundamental importance because they identify the perceptual processes that produce the feeling of ownership of one's body.
We describe how upper limb amputees can be made to experience a rubber hand as part of their own body. This was accomplished by applying synchronous touches to the stump, which was out of view, and to the index finger of a rubber hand, placed in full view (26 cm medial to the stump). This elicited an illusion of sensing touch on the artificial hand, rather than on the stump and a feeling of ownership of the rubber hand developed. This effect was supported by quantitative subjective reports in the form of questionnaires, behavioural data in the form of misreaching in a pointing task when asked to localize the position of the touch, and physiological evidence obtained by skin conductance responses when threatening the hand prosthesis. Our findings outline a simple method for transferring tactile sensations from the stump to a prosthetic limb by tricking the brain, thereby making an important contribution to the field of neuroprosthetics where a major goal is to develop artificial limbs that feel like a real parts of the body.
limb ownership; prosthetics; body representation; plasticity; illusion; referred sensation
Altering the normal association between touch and its visual correlate can result in the illusory perception of a fake limb as part of our own body. Thus, when touch is seen to be applied to a rubber hand while felt synchronously on the corresponding hidden real hand, an illusion of ownership of the rubber hand usually occurs. The illusion has also been demonstrated using visuomotor correlation between the movements of the hidden real hand and the seen fake hand. This type of paradigm has been used with respect to the whole body generating out-of-the-body and body substitution illusions. However, such studies have only ever manipulated a single factor and although they used a form of virtual reality have not exploited the power of immersive virtual reality (IVR) to produce radical transformations in body ownership.
Here we show that a first person perspective of a life-sized virtual human female body that appears to substitute the male subjects' own bodies was sufficient to generate a body transfer illusion. This was demonstrated subjectively by questionnaire and physiologically through heart-rate deceleration in response to a threat to the virtual body. This finding is in contrast to earlier experimental studies that assume visuotactile synchrony to be the critical contributory factor in ownership illusions. Our finding was possible because IVR allowed us to use a novel experimental design for this type of problem with three independent binary factors: (i) perspective position (first or third), (ii) synchronous or asynchronous mirror reflections and (iii) synchrony or asynchrony between felt and seen touch.
The results support the notion that bottom-up perceptual mechanisms can temporarily override top down knowledge resulting in a radical illusion of transfer of body ownership. The research also illustrates immersive virtual reality as a powerful tool in the study of body representation and experience, since it supports experimental manipulations that would otherwise be infeasible, with the technology being mature enough to represent human bodies and their motion.
Feeling touch on a body part is paradigmatically considered to require stimulation of tactile afferents from the body part in question, at least in healthy non-synaesthetic individuals. In contrast to this view, we report a perceptual illusion where people experience “phantom touches” on a right rubber hand when they see it brushed simultaneously with brushes applied to their left hand. Such illusory duplication and transfer of touch from the left to the right hand was only elicited when a homologous (i.e., left and right) pair of hands was brushed in synchrony for an extended period of time. This stimulation caused the majority of our participants to perceive the right rubber hand as their own and to sense two distinct touches – one located on the right rubber hand and the other on their left (stimulated) hand. This effect was supported by quantitative subjective reports in the form of questionnaires, behavioral data from a task in which participants pointed to the felt location of their right hand, and physiological evidence obtained by skin conductance responses when threatening the model hand. Our findings suggest that visual information augments subthreshold somatosensory responses in the ipsilateral hemisphere, thus producing a tactile experience from the non-stimulated body part. This finding is important because it reveals a new bilateral multisensory mechanism for tactile perception and limb ownership.
Psychology and neuroscience have a long-standing tradition of studying blind individuals to investigate how visual experience shapes perception of the external world. Here, we study how blind people experience their own body by exposing them to a multisensory body illusion: the somatic rubber hand illusion. In this illusion, healthy blindfolded participants experience that they are touching their own right hand with their left index finger, when in fact they are touching a rubber hand with their left index finger while the experimenter touches their right hand in a synchronized manner (Ehrsson et al. 2005). We compared the strength of this illusion in a group of blind individuals (n = 10), all of whom had experienced severe visual impairment or complete blindness from birth, and a group of age-matched blindfolded sighted participants (n = 12). The illusion was quantified subjectively using questionnaires and behaviorally by asking participants to point to the felt location of the right hand. The results showed that the sighted participants experienced a strong illusion, whereas the blind participants experienced no illusion at all, a difference that was evident in both tests employed. A further experiment testing the participants' basic ability to localize the right hand in space without vision (proprioception) revealed no difference between the two groups. Taken together, these results suggest that blind individuals with impaired visual development have a more veridical percept of self-touch and a less flexible and dynamic representation of their own body in space compared to sighted individuals. We speculate that the multisensory brain systems that re-map somatosensory signals onto external reference frames are less developed in blind individuals and therefore do not allow efficient fusion of tactile and proprioceptive signals from the two upper limbs into a single illusory experience of self-touch as in sighted individuals.
In rubber hand illusions and full body illusions, touch sensations are projected to non-body objects such as rubber hands, dolls or virtual bodies. The robustness, limits and further perceptual consequences of such illusions are not yet fully explored or understood. A number of experiments are reported that test the limits of a variant of the rubber hand illusion.
A variant of the rubber hand illusion is explored, in which the real and foreign hands are aligned in personal space. The presence of the illusion is ascertained with participants' scores and temperature changes of the real arm. This generates a basic illusion of touch projected to a foreign arm. Participants are presented with further, unusual visuotactile stimuli subsequent to onset of the basic illusion. Such further visuotactile stimulation is found to generate very unusual experiences of supernatural touch and touch on a non-hand object. The finding of touch on a non-hand object conflicts with prior findings, and to resolve this conflict a further hypothesis is successfully tested: that without prior onset of the basic illusion this unusual experience does not occur.
A rubber hand illusion is found that can arise when the real and the foreign arm are aligned in personal space. This illusion persists through periods of no tactile stimulation and is strong enough to allow very unusual experiences of touch felt on a cardboard box and experiences of touch produced at a distance, as if by supernatural causation. These findings suggest that one's visual body image is explained away during experience of the illusion and they may be of further importance to understanding the role of experience in delusion formation. The findings of touch on non-hand objects may help reconcile conflicting results in this area of research. In addition, new evidence is provided that relates to the recently discovered psychologically induced temperature changes that occur during the illusion.
Our body schema gives the subjective impression of being highly stable. However, a number of easily-evoked illusions illustrate its remarkable malleability. In the rubber-hand illusion, illusory ownership of a rubber-hand is evoked by synchronous visual and tactile stimulation on a visible rubber arm and on the hidden real arm. Ownership is concurrent with a proprioceptive illusion of displacement of the arm position towards the fake arm. We have previously shown that this illusion of ownership plus the proprioceptive displacement also occurs towards a virtual 3D projection of an arm when the appropriate synchronous visuotactile stimulation is provided. Our objective here was to explore whether these illusions (ownership and proprioceptive displacement) can be induced by only synchronous visuomotor stimulation, in the absence of tactile stimulation.
To achieve this we used a data-glove that uses sensors transmitting the positions of fingers to a virtually projected hand in the synchronous but not in the asynchronous condition. The illusion of ownership was measured by means of questionnaires. Questions related to ownership gave significantly larger values for the synchronous than for the asynchronous condition. Proprioceptive displacement provided an objective measure of the illusion and had a median value of 3.5 cm difference between the synchronous and asynchronous conditions. In addition, the correlation between the feeling of ownership of the virtual arm and the size of the drift was significant.
We conclude that synchrony between visual and proprioceptive information along with motor activity is able to induce an illusion of ownership over a virtual arm. This has implications regarding the brain mechanisms underlying body ownership as well as the use of virtual bodies in therapies and rehabilitation.
The sense of body ownership can be easily disrupted during illusions and the most common illusion is the rubber hand illusion. An idea that is rapidly gaining popularity in clinical pain medicine is that body ownership illusions can be used to modify pathological pain sensations and induce analgesia. However, this idea has not been empirically evaluated. Two separate research laboratories undertook independent randomized repeated measures experiments, both designed to detect an effect of the rubber hand illusion on experimentally induced hand pain. In Experiment 1, 16 healthy volunteers rated the pain evoked by noxious heat stimuli (5 s duration; interstimulus interval 25 s) of set temperatures (47°, 48° and 49°C) during the rubber hand illusion or during a control condition. There was a main effect of stimulus temperature on pain ratings, but no main effect of condition (p = 0.32), nor a condition x temperature interaction (p = 0.31). In Experiment 2, 20 healthy volunteers underwent quantitative sensory testing to determine heat and cold pain thresholds during the rubber hand illusion or during a control condition. Secondary analyses involved heat and cold detection thresholds and paradoxical heat sensations. Again, there was no main effect of condition on heat pain threshold (p = 0.17), nor on cold pain threshold (p = 0.65), nor on any of the secondary measures (p<0.56 for all). We conclude that the rubber hand illusion does not induce analgesia.
In five experiments, we investigated the effects of visual exposure to a real hand, a rubber hand, or a wooden block on reaching movements made with the unseen left hand behind a parasagittal mirror. Participants reached from one of four starting positions, corresponding to four levels of conflict between the proprioceptively- and visually-specified position of the reaching hand. Reaching movements were affected most by exposure to the real hand, intermediately by the rubber hand, and least of all by the wooden block. When the posture and/or movement of the visible hand was incompatible with that of the reaching hand, the effect on reaching was reduced. A ‘rubber hand illusion’ questionnaire revealed that illusions of ownership of the rubber hand were not strongly correlated with reaching performance. This research suggests that proprioception recalibrates following visual exposure to prosthetic hands, and that this recalibration is independent of the rubber hand illusion.
Rubber Hand; Illusion; Mirror; Proprioception; Vision; Reaching; Multisensory Integration
In this review, the neural underpinnings of the experience of presence are outlined. Firstly, it is shown that presence is associated with activation of a distributed network, which includes the dorsal and ventral visual stream, the parietal cortex, the premotor cortex, mesial temporal areas, the brainstem and the thalamus. Secondly, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is identified as a key node of the network as it modulates the activity of the network and the associated experience of presence. Thirdly, children lack the strong modulatory influence of the DLPFC on the network due to their unmatured frontal cortex. Fourthly, it is shown that presence-related measures are influenced by manipulating the activation in the DLPFC using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) while participants are exposed to the virtual roller coaster ride. Finally, the findings are discussed in the context of current models explaining the experience of presence, the rubber hand illusion, and out-of-body experiences.
brain imaging; fmRI; presence; DLPFC; children; adults; brain maturation