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      The multisensory basis of the self: From body to identity to others


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          By grounding the self in the body, experimental psychology has taken the body as the starting point for a science of the self. One fundamental dimension of the bodily self is the sense of body ownership that refers to the special perceptual status of one’s own body, the feeling that “my body” belongs to me. The primary aim of this review article is to highlight recent advances in the study of body ownership and our understanding of the underlying neurocognitive processes in three ways. I first consider how the sense of body ownership has been investigated and elucidated in the context of multisensory integration. Beyond exteroception, recent studies have considered how this exteroceptively driven sense of body ownership can be linked to the other side of embodiment, that of the unobservable, yet felt, interoceptive body, suggesting that these two sides of embodiment interact to provide a unifying bodily self. Lastly, the multisensorial understanding of the self has been shown to have implications for our understanding of social relationships, especially in the context of self–other boundaries. Taken together, these three research strands motivate a unified model of the self inspired by current predictive coding models.

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          Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self.

          The concept of the brain as a prediction machine has enjoyed a resurgence in the context of the Bayesian brain and predictive coding approaches within cognitive science. To date, this perspective has been applied primarily to exteroceptive perception (e.g., vision, audition), and action. Here, I describe a predictive, inferential perspective on interoception: 'interoceptive inference' conceives of subjective feeling states (emotions) as arising from actively-inferred generative (predictive) models of the causes of interoceptive afferents. The model generalizes 'appraisal' theories that view emotions as emerging from cognitive evaluations of physiological changes, and it sheds new light on the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie the experience of body ownership and conscious selfhood in health and in neuropsychiatric illness. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            The neural basis of empathy.

            Empathy--the ability to share the feelings of others--is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous human imaging studies focusing on empathy for others' pain have consistently shown activations in regions also involved in the direct pain experience, particularly anterior insula and anterior and midcingulate cortex. These findings suggest that empathy is, in part, based on shared representations for firsthand and vicarious experiences of affective states. Empathic responses are not static but can be modulated by person characteristics, such as degree of alexithymia. It has also been shown that contextual appraisal, including perceived fairness or group membership of others, may modulate empathic neuronal activations. Empathy often involves coactivations in further networks associated with social cognition, depending on the specific situation and information available in the environment. Empathy-related insular and cingulate activity may reflect domain-general computations representing and predicting feeling states in self and others, likely guiding adaptive homeostatic responses and goal-directed behavior in dynamic social contexts.
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              Neural signatures of body ownership: a sensory network for bodily self-consciousness.

              Body ownership refers to the special perceptual status of one's own body, which makes bodily sensations seem unique to oneself. We studied the neural correlates of body ownership by controlling whether an external object was accepted as part of the body or not. In the rubber hand illusion (RHI), correlated visuotactile stimulation causes a fake hand to be perceived as part of one's own body. In the present study, we distinguished between the causes (i.e., multisensory stimulation) and the effect (i.e., the feeling of ownership) of the RHI. Participants watched a right or a left rubber hand being touched either synchronously or asynchronously with respect to their own unseen right hand. A quantifiable correlate of the RHI is a shift in the perceived position of the subject's hand toward the rubber hand. We used positron emission tomography to identify brain areas whose activity correlated with this proprioceptive measure of body ownership. Body ownership was related to activity in the right posterior insula and the right frontal operculum. Conversely, when the rubber hand was not attributed to the self, activity was observed in the contralateral parietal cortex, particularly the somatosensory cortex. These structures form a network that plays a fundamental role in linking current sensory stimuli to one's own body and thus also in self-consciousness.

                Author and article information

                Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)
                Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)
                Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (2006)
                3 April 2017
                17 May 2016
                : 70
                : 4
                : 597-609
                [ a ]Lab of Action & Body, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London , Egham, Surrey, UK
                Author notes
                [CONTACT ] M. Tsakiris manos.tsakiris@ 123456rhul.ac.uk
                © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 82, Pages: 13
                Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council 10.13039/501100000269
                Award ID: ES/K013378/1
                Funded by: European Research Council 10.13039/501100000781
                Award ID: ERC-2010-StG-262853
                Funded by: (ESRC) Research
                Award ID: ES/K013378/1
                M.T. was supported by the European Research Council [grant number ERC-2010-StG-262853] under the FP7; and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Research Grant [grant number ES/K013378/1].
                Invited Article
                EPS Prize Lecture

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                self,body awareness,multisensory,interoception,social cognition,body ownership


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