Researchers are starting to figure out which piece of our brain lets us know our body is our own:
In the new study, the researchers used a “body-swap” illusion, in which people experienced a mannequin to be their own, in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants observed touching of the mannequin’s body from the point of view of the mannequin’s head while feeling identical synchronous touches on their own body, which they could not see. Those studies revealed a tight coupling between the experience of full-body ownership and neural responses in brain regions known to represent multisensory processing nodes in the primate brain, specifically the bilateral ventral premotor and left intraparietal cortices and the left putamen.
Activation in those multisensory areas was stronger when the stimulated body part was attached to a body as compared with when it was detached, the researchers reported, evidence that the integrity between body segments facilitates ownership of the parts.
“Our results suggest that the integration of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive information in body-part-centered reference frames represents a basic neural mechanism underlying the feeling of ownership of entire bodies,” the researchers wrote. The finding generalizes existing models of limb ownership to the case of the entire body.
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