Feeling the body in a new light

There are a couple of excellent posts on Neurophilosophy covering recent studies that demonstrate the powerful effect of vision on the perception of physical sensations in our body.

The first covers an interesting study that found that looking directly at your hand reduces laser-induced pain compared to a condition where you are only looking at a visual substitute created with a mirror reflection of the other hand (akin to a mirror box set up).

The second post discusses the possibilities of taking advantage of the ‘rubber hand illusion‘ to allow us to feel like we’re physically inhabiting virtual bodies.

Numerous experiments have shown that we look at a rubber hand being touched simultaneously and in the same way as our real hand, the sensation seems to be located in the fake.

This new experiment attempted something similar but in virtual reality, demonstrating that a synchronised ‘touch’ could be perceived as arising from an avatar hand in a 3D computer generated environment.

While the same research team had demonstrated this effect before this new study showed how the effect could transfer, albeit more weakly, to a virtual arm controlled by a brain-computer interface driven solely from EEG readings.

Both of these studies demonstrate how vision is integrated with tactile information from the body to create our sense of body image, ownership and sensation and both get a great write-up from Neurophilosophy.

Link to Neurophilosophy post visual pain reduction.
Link to Neurophilosophy on the ‘virtual hand illusion’.

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