Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Perceiving Touch And Your Self Outside Of Your Body

Date:
August 5, 2009
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
When you feel you are being touched, usually something is physically touching you and you perceive that your "self" is located in the same place as your body. Neuroscientists have now investigated bodily self-consciousness and the spatial representation of touch stimuli. They found that sensations of touch can be felt and mislocalized towards where a "virtual" body is seen. These findings provide new avenues for the animation of virtual worlds and machines.

When you feel you are being touched, usually someone or something is physically touching you and you perceive that your "self" is located in the same place as your body. Neuroscientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fιdιrale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, investigated the relationship between bodily self-consciousness and the way touch stimuli are spatially represented in humans. They found that sensations of touch can be felt and mislocalised towards where a "virtual" body is seen. These findings will provide new avenues for the animation of virtual worlds and machines.

In their previous research, Professor Olaf Blanke's lab at the EPFL found that the consciousness of one's own body (the sense of self-identification and self-location) can be altered in healthy people under certain experimental conditions, yielding similar sensations to those felt in out-of-body experiences. In this new study, Aspell and colleagues in Blanke's lab used a crossmodal congruency task to determine whether there is a change in touch perception during this illusion.

A number of earlier studies showed that if a rubber hand is positioned such that it extends from a person's arm while her actual hand is hidden from view, and both her real hand and the rubber hand are stroked at the same time, she seems to feel the touch in the location where she sees the rubber hand being touched. This effect and the experienced 'ownership' of the rubber hand is the "rubber hand illusion."

Aspell, a postdoctoral researcher, along with graduate student Bigna Lenggenhager and Professor Olaf Blanke sought to expand on this research to see whether there are changes in touch perception when humans experience ownership of a whole virtual body. They designed a novel behavioural task in which the experimental participants had to try to detect where on their body vibrations were occurring. At the same time, they viewed their own body via a head-mounted display connected to a camera filming the participant's back from two metres away. The participants had to ignore light flashes that appeared on their body near the vibrators. To induce the feeling that they were located in the position where they viewed their body (i.e. two metres in front of them), participants were stroked on their backs with a stick. This induced a "full body illusion" in which a person perceives herself as being located outside the confines of her own body.

By measuring how strongly the light flashes interfered with the perception of the vibrations, the researchers were able to show that the mapping of touch sensations was altered during the full body illusion. The mapping of touch in space was shifted towards the virtual body when subjects felt themselves to be located where the virtual body was seen.

This study demonstrates that changes in self-consciousness ('where am I located?' and 'what is my body?') are accompanied by changes in where touch sensations are experienced in space. Importantly, these data reveal that brain mechanisms of multisensory processing are crucial for the "I" of conscious experience and can be scientifically manipulated in order to animate and incarnate virtual humans, robots, and machines.

This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (#3100-067874.02).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aspell JE, Lenggenhager B, Blanke O. Keeping in Touch with One's Self: Multisensory Mechanisms of Self-Consciousness. PLoS ONE, 4(8): e6488 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006488

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Perceiving Touch And Your Self Outside Of Your Body." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804210627.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2009, August 5). Perceiving Touch And Your Self Outside Of Your Body. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804210627.htm
Public Library of Science. "Perceiving Touch And Your Self Outside Of Your Body." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804210627.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) — New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins