Little evidence for an effect of the rubber hand illusion on basic movement



Reader AT, Trifonova VS & Ehrsson HH (2021) Little evidence for an effect of the rubber hand illusion on basic movement. European Journal of Neuroscience, 54 (7), pp. 6463-6486.

Body ownership refers to the distinct sensation that our observed body belongs to us, which is believed to stem from multisensory integration. This is commonly shown through the rubber hand illusion (RHI), which induces a sense of ownership over a false limb. Whilst the RHI may interfere with object-directed action and alter motor cortical activity, it is not yet clear whether a sense of ownership over an artificial hand has functional consequences for movement production per se. As such, we performed two motion-tracking experiments (n=117) to examine the effects of the RHI on the reaction time, acceleration, and velocity of rapid index finger abduction. We observed little convincing evidence that the induction of the RHI altered these kinematic variables. Moreover, the subjective sensations of rubber hand ownership, referral of touch, and agency did not convincingly correlate with kinematic variables, and nor did proprioceptive drift, suggesting that changes in body representation elicited by the RHI may not influence basic movement. Whilst experiment 1 suggested that individuals reporting a greater sensation of the real hand disappearing performed movements with smaller acceleration and velocity following illusion induction, we did not replicate this effect in a second experiment, suggesting that these effects may be small or not particularly robust. Overall, these results indicate that manipulating the conscious experience of body ownership has little impact on basic motor control, at least in the RHI with healthy participants.

body ownership; kinematics; motor control; multisensory integration

European Journal of Neuroscience: Volume 54, Issue 7

FundersSwedish Research Council
Publication date31/10/2021
Publication date online06/09/2021
Date accepted by journal28/08/2021

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Dr Arran Reader
Dr Arran Reader

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology

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