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      Balancing body ownership: Visual capture of proprioception and affectivity during vestibular stimulation


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          The experience of our body as our own (i.e. body ownership) involves integrating different sensory signals according to their contextual relevance (i.e. multisensory integration). Until recently, most studies of multisensory integration and body ownership concerned only vision, touch and proprioception; the role of other modalities, such as the vestibular system and interoception, has been neglected and remains poorly understood. In particular, no study to date has directly explored the combined effect of vestibular and interoceptive signals on body ownership. Here, we investigated for the first time how Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (left, right, sham), tactile affectivity (a reclassified interoceptive modality manipulated by applying touch at C-tactile optimal versus non-optimal velocities), and their combination, influence proprioceptive and subjective measures of body ownership during a rubber hand illusion paradigm with healthy participants (N = 26). Our results show that vestibular stimulation (left GVS) significantly increased proprioceptive drift towards the rubber hand during mere visual exposure to the rubber hand. Moreover, it also enhanced participants’ proprioceptive drift towards the rubber hand during manipulations of synchronicity and affective touch. These findings suggest that the vestibular system influences multisensory integration, possibly by re-weighting both the two-way relationship between proprioception and vision, as well as the three-way relationship between proprioception, vision and affective touch. We discuss these findings in relation to current predictive coding models of multisensory integration and body ownership.


          • We studied vestibular and affective contributions to body ownership.

          • We stimulated the vestibular system in a Rubber Hand paradigm with affective touch.

          • Right-hemisphere stimulation increased proprioceptive drift during vision of a RH.

          • Applying affective touch further increased proprioceptive drift.

          • Affective and vestibular signals may favour vision in multisensory integration.

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          Most cited references51

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          Interoception: the sense of the physiological condition of the body.

          Converging evidence indicates that primates have a distinct cortical image of homeostatic afferent activity that reflects all aspects of the physiological condition of all tissues of the body. This interoceptive system, associated with autonomic motor control, is distinct from the exteroceptive system (cutaneous mechanoreception and proprioception) that guides somatic motor activity. The primary interoceptive representation in the dorsal posterior insula engenders distinct highly resolved feelings from the body that include pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and 'air hunger'. In humans, a meta-representation of the primary interoceptive activity is engendered in the right anterior insula, which seems to provide the basis for the subjective image of the material self as a feeling (sentient) entity, that is, emotional awareness.
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            Touching a rubber hand: feeling of body ownership is associated with activity in multisensory brain areas.

            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 shown previously that this illusion is associated with activity in the multisensory areas, most notably the ventral premotor cortex (Ehrsson et al., 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 participant's left index finger so that it touched the fake hand, and simultaneously, he touched the participant's real right hand, synchronizing the touches as perfectly as possible. After approximately 9.7 s, 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.
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              On the other hand: dummy hands and peripersonal space.

              Where are my hands? The brain can answer this question using sensory information arising from vision, proprioception, or touch. Other sources of information about the position of our hands can be derived from multisensory interactions (or potential interactions) with our close environment, such as when we grasp or avoid objects. The pioneering study of multisensory representations of peripersonal space was published in Behavioural Brain Research almost 30 years ago [Rizzolatti G, Scandolara C, Matelli M, Gentilucci M. Afferent properties of periarcuate neurons in macaque monkeys. II. Visual responses. Behav Brain Res 1981;2:147-63]. More recently, neurophysiological, neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and behavioural studies have contributed a wealth of evidence concerning hand-centred representations of objects in peripersonal space. This evidence is examined here in detail. In particular, we focus on the use of artificial dummy hands as powerful instruments to manipulate the brain's representation of hand position, peripersonal space, and of hand ownership. We also review recent studies of the 'rubber hand illusion' and related phenomena, such as the visual capture of touch, and the recalibration of hand position sense, and discuss their findings in the light of research on peripersonal space. Finally, we propose a simple model that situates the 'rubber hand illusion' in the neurophysiological framework of multisensory hand-centred representations of space.

                Author and article information

                Pergamon Press
                1 August 2018
                August 2018
                : 117
                : 311-321
                [a ]School of Life and Medical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, UK
                [b ]Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology Research Department, Division of Psychology & Language Sciences, University College London, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Department of Psychology and Sport Science, School of Life and Medical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK. s.ponzo@ 123456herts.ac.uk

                These authors have shared the senior authorship.

                © 2018 The Authors

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).


                affective touch,body ownership,multisensory integration,vestibular stimulation,bodily self


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