Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is our sense of body labile?

Participants had a rubber hand placed in their field of vision and their real hand concealed behind a partition.
image: Physorg

I came across this fascinating article today called "Sleight of hand and sense of self." We all know that many people with eating disorders have body distortions. Sometimes the distortions become so focused that individuals have a difficult time sensing ownership of their bodies. It can lead to a mind-body dissociation. Normally, one of the goals in treatment is to bring back self-awareness, so individuals can feel whole both in body and mind.

Researchers at Oxford University wanted to see if they could replicate this type of experience in two ways. Through the mind, they wanted to see if they could manipulate a sense of ownership of the body. Physically, they wanted to see if there was any detection of a temperature change.

From the article,

The rubber-hand illusion involves placing a rubber hand in front of the participant in their field of vision and near to their real hand. The real hand is then concealed behind a partition. If the real hand and the rubber hand are touched or stroked in the same way and at the same time, the participant tries to co-ordinate what they are feeling (their own hand being stroked) and seeing (the rubber hand being stroked). They can experience a shift in where they believe their hand is to the position of the rubber hand.

Participants said they felt like they owned the rubber arm. With this type of result, researchers concluded that it was like they were "disowning" their real arm which resulted in a temperature drop in that hand.

Dr. Mosley, one of the researchers said, "
The rubber-hand illusion is a beautiful device to manipulate our sense of self. It tells us that our sense of our bodies, our sense of who we are, is labile."

I just think this is a very interesting study and really shows the adaptability of the mind. I'm not as well versed in the physiological aspect of temperature change with regard to body distortion, but it is an avenue worth consideration for researchers.

What are your thoughts?


Gaining Back My Life said...

I'm just curious who came up with this study. Fascinating!

Tiptoe said...

Gaining, thanks for commenting. The study is done out of the UK. I can't find exact article with these authors, but found some similar ones looking at the neural circuitry:

Deb said...

VERY cool!

Tiptoe said...

Deb, thanks. I'm interested to the other implications with this research.