Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

That’s not my hand! How the brain can be fooled into feeling a fake limb

02.07.2004


Scientists have made the first recordings of the human brain’s awareness of its own body, using the illusion of a strategically-placed rubber hand to trick the brain. Their findings shed light on disorders of self-perception such as schizophrenia, stroke and phantom limb syndrome, where sufferers may no longer recognize their own limbs or may experience pain from missing ones.



In the study published today in Science Express online, University College London’s (UCL) Dr Henrik Ehrsson, working with Oxford University psychologists, manipulated volunteers’ perceptions of their own body via three different senses - vision, touch and proprioception (position sense).

They found that one area of the brain, the premotor cortex, integrates information from these different senses to recognize the body. However, because vision tends to dominate, if information from the senses is inconsistent, the brain “believes” the visual information over the proprioceptive. Thus, someone immersed in an illusion would feel, for example, that a fake limb was part of their own body.


In the study, each volunteer hid their right hand beneath a table while a rubber hand was placed in front of them at an angle suggesting the fake hand was part of their body. Both the rubber hand and hidden hand were simultaneously stroked with a paintbrush while the volunteer’s brain was scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

On average, it took volunteers 11 seconds to start experiencing that the rubber hand was their own. The stronger this feeling, the greater the activity recorded in the premotor cortex.

After the experiment, volunteers were asked to point towards their right hand. Most reached in the wrong direction, pointing towards the rubber hand instead of the real hidden one, providing further evidence of the brain’s re-adjustment.

Dr Henrik Ehrsson says: “The feeling that our bodies belong to ourselves is a fundamental part of human consciousness, yet there are surprisingly few studies of awareness of one’s own body.”

“Distinguishing oneself from the environment is a critical, everyday problem that has to be solved by the central nervous system of all animals. If the distinction fails the animal might try to feed on itself and will not be able to plan actions that involve both body parts and external objects, such as a monkey reaching for a banana.

This study shows that the brain distinguishes the self from the non-self by comparing information from the different senses. In a way you could argue that the bodily self is an illusion being constructed in the brain.”

Disorders such as schizophrenia and stroke often involve impaired self-perception where, for example, a woman might try to throw her left leg out of bed every morning because she believes the leg belongs to someone else. Misidentification or unawareness of a limb arising from damage to the premotor cortex from a stroke is not uncommon.

Phantom limb syndrome is a disorder which can arise after amputation. Remedies that trick the brain into believing the limb has been replaced, for example by using a mirror to reflect the opposite healthy limb onto the amputated limb, exploit the brain’s mechanism of self-perception.

Jenny Gimpel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Switch-in-a-cell electrifies life
18.12.2018 | Rice University

nachricht Plant biologists identify mechanism behind transition from insect to wind pollination
18.12.2018 | University of Toronto

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>