Experimentally induced limb-disownership in mixed reality

Oliver A Kannape, Ethan J T Smith, Peter Moseley, Mark P Roy, Bigna Lenggenhager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The seemingly stable construct of our bodily self depends on the continued, successful integration of multisensory feedback about our body, rather than its purely physical composition. Accordingly, pathological disruption of such neural processing is linked to striking alterations of the bodily self, ranging from limb misidentification to disownership, and even the desire to amputate a healthy limb. While previous embodiment research has relied on experimental setups using supernumerary limbs in variants of the Rubber Hand Illusion, we here used Mixed Reality to directly manipulate the feeling of ownership for one's own, biological limb. Using a Head-Mounted Display, participants received visual feedback about their own arm, from an embodied first-person perspective. In a series of three studies, in independent cohorts, we altered embodiment by providing visuotactile feedback that could be synchronous (control condition) or asynchronous (400 ms delay, Real Hand Illusion). During the illusion, participants reported a significant decrease in ownership of their own limb, along with a lowered sense of agency. Supporting the right-parietal body network, we found an increased illusion strength for the left upper limb as well as a modulation of the feeling of ownership during anodal transcranial direct current stimulation. Extending previous research, these findings demonstrate that a controlled, visuotactile conflict about one's own limb can be used to directly and systematically modulate ownership - without a proxy. This not only corroborates the malleability of body representation but questions its permanence. These findings warrant further exploration of combined VR and neuromodulation therapies for disorders of the bodily self.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
Early online date18 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2019


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