Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How we come to know our bodies as our own

Date:
June 17, 2011
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
By taking advantage of a "body swap" illusion, researchers have captured the brain regions involved in one of the most fundamental aspects of self-awareness: how we recognize our bodies as our own, distinct from others and from the outside world. That self-perception is traced to specialized multisensory neurons in various parts of the brain that integrate different sensory inputs across all body parts into a unified view of the body.

By taking advantage of a "body swap" illusion, researchers have captured the brain regions involved in one of the most fundamental aspects of self-awareness: how we recognize our bodies as our own, distinct from others and from the outside world. That self-perception is traced to specialized multisensory neurons in various parts of the brain that integrate different sensory inputs across all body parts into a unified view of the body.

The findings, reported online on June 16 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, may have important medical and industrial applications, the researchers say.

"When we look down at our body, we immediately experience that it belongs to us," said Valeria Petkova of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "We do not experience our body as a set of fragmented parts, but rather as a single entity. Our study is the first to tackle the important question of how we come to have the unitary experience of owning an entire body."

Earlier studies showed that the integration of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive information (the sense of the relative position of body parts) in multisensory areas constitutes a mechanism for the self-attribution of single limbs, the researchers explained. But how ownership of individual body parts translates into the experience of owning a whole body remained a mystery.

In the new study, the researchers used a "body-swap" illusion, in which people experienced a mannequin to be their own, in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants observed touching of the mannequin's body from the point of view of the mannequin's head while feeling identical synchronous touches on their own body, which they could not see. Those studies revealed a tight coupling between the experience of full-body ownership and neural responses in brain regions known to represent multisensory processing nodes in the primate brain, specifically the bilateral ventral premotor and left intraparietal cortices and the left putamen.

Activation in those multisensory areas was stronger when the stimulated body part was attached to a body as compared with when it was detached, the researchers reported, evidence that the integrity between body segments facilitates ownership of the parts.

"Our results suggest that the integration of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive information in body-part-centered reference frames represents a basic neural mechanism underlying the feeling of ownership of entire bodies," the researchers wrote. The finding generalizes existing models of limb ownership to the case of the entire body.

The discovery may find practical application, according to the study's senior author, Henrik Ehrsson.

"Understanding the mechanisms underlying the self-attribution of a body in the healthy brain can help in developing better diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to address pathological disturbances of bodily self-perception," Ehrsson said. "In addition, understanding the mechanisms of perceiving an entire body or a body part as belonging to oneself can have important implications for the design and production of mechanical prostheses or robotic substitutes for paralyzed or amputated body parts."

It might also lead to improvements in the fields of telerobotics and virtual reality, he added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Valeria I. Petkova, Malin Bjφrnsdotter, Giovanni Gentile, Tomas Jonsson, Tie-Qiang Li, H. Henrik Ehrsson. From Part- to Whole-Body Ownership in the Multisensory Brain. Current Biology, 16 June 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.05.022

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "How we come to know our bodies as our own." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121906.htm>.
Cell Press. (2011, June 17). How we come to know our bodies as our own. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121906.htm
Cell Press. "How we come to know our bodies as our own." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110616121906.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Newsy (Sep. 10, 2014) — Researchers found commonly prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills such as Xanax and Valium could lead to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. Video provided by Newsy
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