Bodily illusions modulate tactile perception
ABSTRACT Touch differs from other exteroceptive senses in that the body itself forms part of the tactile percept. Interactions between proprioception and touch provide a powerful way to investigate the implicit body representation underlying touch. Here, we demonstrate that an intrinsic primary quality of a tactile object, for example its size, is directly affected by the perceived size of the body part touching it. We elicited proprioceptive illusions that the left index finger was either elongating or shrinking by vibrating the biceps or triceps tendon of the right arm while subjects grasped the tip of their left index finger. Subjects estimated the distance between two simultaneous tactile contacts on the left finger during tendon vibration. We found that tactile distances feel bigger when the touched body part feels elongated. Control tests showed that the modulation of touch was linked to the perceived index-finger size induced by tendon vibration. Vibrations that did not produce proprioceptive illusion had no effect on touch. Our results show that the perception of tactile objects is referenced to an implicit body representation and that proprioception contributes to this body representation. We also provide, for the first time, a quantitative, implicit measure of distortions of body size.
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ABSTRACT: Recent studies have shown that a fake body part can be incorporated into human body representation through synchronous multisensory stimulation on the fake and corresponding real body part - the most famous example being the Rubber Hand Illusion. However, the extent to which gross asymmetries in the fake body can be assimilated remains unknown. Participants experienced, through a head-tracked stereo head-mounted display a virtual body coincident with their real body. There were 5 conditions in a between-groups experiment, with 10 participants per condition. In all conditions there was visuo-motor congruence between the real and virtual dominant arm. In an Incongruent condition (I), where the virtual arm length was equal to the real length, there was visuo-tactile incongruence. In four Congruent conditions there was visuo-tactile congruence, but the virtual arm lengths were either equal to (C1), double (C2), triple (C3) or quadruple (C4) the real ones. Questionnaire scores and defensive withdrawal movements in response to a threat showed that the overall level of ownership was high in both C1 and I, and there was no significant difference between these conditions. Additionally, participants experienced ownership over the virtual arm up to three times the length of the real one, and less strongly at four times the length. The illusion did decline, however, with the length of the virtual arm. In the C2-C4 conditions although a measure of proprioceptive drift positively correlated with virtual arm length, there was no correlation between the drift and ownership of the virtual arm, suggesting different underlying mechanisms between ownership and drift. Overall, these findings extend and enrich previous results that multisensory and sensorimotor information can reconstruct our perception of the body shape, size and symmetry even when this is not consistent with normal body proportions.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(7):e40867. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Visual- and motor imagery rely primarily on perceptual and motor processes, respectively. In healthy controls, the type of imagery used to solve a task depends on personal preference, task instruction, and task properties. But how does the chronic loss of proprioceptive and tactile sensory inputs from the body periphery influence mental imagery? In a unique case study, we investigated the imagery capabilities of the chronically deafferented patient IW when he was performing a mental rotation task. We found that IW's motor imagery processes were impaired and that visual imagery processes were enhanced compared to controls. These results suggest that kinaesthetic afferent signals from the body periphery play a crucial role in enabling and maintaining central sensorimotor representations and hence the ability to incorporate kinaesthetic information into the imagery processes.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(8):e42742. · 4.09 Impact Factor