Chronic pain can be lessened by an ‘out of body’ illusion

If you’ve ever heard of stories in which people report having an ‘out of body experience’ (OBE) during a traumatic incident like a car crash you might be able to guess why there could be a link between OBEs and chronic pain. Some scientists have suggested that the very vivid hallucination that is an OBE can sometimes serve an adaptive function by … [Read more...]

Sense of ownership is necessary to anticipate pain

The awareness of being the owner of one’s body is probably the most common basic experience in life and is rarely considered as a cognitive function – just like speech or memory. This sense of ownership can be disrupted by brain injury, leading to a striking neuropsychological condition called somatoparaphrenia, defined as the acquired delusion … [Read more...]

Full body illusion is associated with skin temperature reduction

Our bodily self-consciousness arises from the spectacular integration of body and mind.  This integration is so fundamental that we have a unified experience of the self, which includes both our physical body and our mental experience.  However, people with neurological conditions often show severe deficits in bodily self-consciousness suggesting … [Read more...]

Presence Through the Eyes of a Child

Using a head-mounted display and body tracking suit, entering into a virtual reality, you can experience yourself as a child of about 4 years old.  You look into a mirror, or directly down towards your own body, but you see the child body instead.  The brain appears to be remarkably flexible in quickly accepting the proposition that your body is … [Read more...]

Aristotle’s illusion in focal hand dystonia

Some philosophical observations can raise interesting neuroscientific questions. This is the case of the so-called “Aristotle’s illusion”. Aristotle (in Metaphysica IV, 6) first noticed that by crossing the fingers, one gets the illusion of doubling a single stimulus positioned in the contact point of the fingertips. This type of tactile illusion … [Read more...]

Seeing your pain site helps

Do you know what your back looks like? And if you now compare your back to your hands, what appears more familiar to you? In contrast to other body areas, one’s own back cannot be seen directly, so you always have to use mirrors. The back is only perceived when it causes trouble. In most chronic back pain patients the exact localization of their … [Read more...]

Body posture influences tactile sensation during the preparation of movement

Have you ever had your scalp massaged with an orgasmatron? And then tried to re-instate the pleasure yourself but it just did not feel the same? It appears that a short time delay needs to be present between the movement of the hand and the experienced tactile sensation, in order for us to assign an external cause to the felt sensation.  As a … [Read more...]

Shared mechanisms in bodily illusions and imagined movements

Imagine a cold winter day. Everything is covered by snow. You are getting ready to go out. Coat, scarf, wool cap, but on the table next to the main door there are your brand new gloves, one is blue the other one is red. How do we choose which glove corresponds to which hand? Most people automatically prepare, or imagine, moving one hand into the … [Read more...]

Impaired spatial body representation in CRPS I

Imagine being offered one half of a Snickers Bar that on first glance was cut into two equal halves. Unless a machine bisected it, the right half would still be just a tiny bit larger. Why is that? Roughly said, the brain’s hemispheres are responsible for different functions. The right hemisphere is specialized in spatial abilities. When asked to … [Read more...]

Interoception and pain – is it better to be ignorant?

I just read a fascinating paper by Pollatos and colleagues[1] in a recent issue of Pain. This paper evaluated the relationship between interoception (ie, the ability to consciously perceive signals from the body) and pain perception. This study was based on the theory that emotive stimuli initiate changes in physiological and bodily processes and … [Read more...]