What is it like to be invisible? This question has long fascinated man and has been the central theme of many classic literary works. Recent advances in materials science suggest that invisibility cloaking of the human body may be possible in the not-so-distant future. However, it remains unknown how invisibility affects body perception and embodied cognition. To address these questions, we developed a perceptual illusion of having an entire invisible body. Through a series of experiments, we characterized the multisensory rules that govern the elicitation of the illusion and show that the experience of having an invisible body reduces the social anxiety response to standing in front of an audience. This study provides an experimental model of what it is like to be invisible and shows that this experience affects bodily self-perception and social cognition.
We report a novel illusion–curvature blindness illusion: a wavy line is perceived as a zigzag line. The following are required for this illusion to occur. First, the luminance contrast polarity of the wavy line against the background is reversed at the turning points. Second, the curvature of the wavy line is somewhat low; the right angle is too steep to be perceived as an illusion. This illusion implies that, in order to perceive a gentle curve, it is necessary to satisfy more conditions–constant contrast polarity–than perceiving an obtuse corner. It is notable that observers exactly “see” an illusory zigzag line against a physically wavy line, rather than have an impaired perception. We propose that the underlying mechanisms for the gentle curve perception and those of obtuse corner perception are competing with each other in an imbalanced way and the percepts of corner might be dominant in the visual system.
Shift toward prior knowledge confers a perceptual advantage in early psychosis and psychosis-prone healthy individuals
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 3 years ago
Many neuropsychiatric illnesses are associated with psychosis, i.e., hallucinations (perceptions in the absence of causative stimuli) and delusions (irrational, often bizarre beliefs). Current models of brain function view perception as a combination of two distinct sources of information: bottom-up sensory input and top-down influences from prior knowledge. This framework may explain hallucinations and delusions. Here, we characterized the balance between visual bottom-up and top-down processing in people with early psychosis (study 1) and in psychosis-prone, healthy individuals (study 2) to elucidate the mechanisms that might contribute to the emergence of psychotic experiences. Through a specialized mental-health service, we identified unmedicated individuals who experience early psychotic symptoms but fall below the threshold for a categorical diagnosis. We observed that, in early psychosis, there was a shift in information processing favoring prior knowledge over incoming sensory evidence. In the complementary study, we capitalized on subtle variations in perception and belief in the general population that exhibit graded similarity with psychotic experiences (schizotypy). We observed that the degree of psychosis proneness in healthy individuals, and, specifically, the presence of subtle perceptual alterations, is also associated with stronger reliance on prior knowledge. Although, in the current experimental studies, this shift conferred a performance benefit, under most natural viewing situations, it may provoke anomalous perceptual experiences. Overall, we show that early psychosis and psychosis proneness both entail a basic shift in visual information processing, favoring prior knowledge over incoming sensory evidence. The studies provide complementary insights to a mechanism by which psychotic symptoms may emerge.
Hallucinations occur in both normal and clinical populations. Due to their unpredictability and complexity, the mechanisms underlying hallucinations remain largely untested. Here we show that visual hallucinations can be induced in the normal population by visual flicker, limited to an annulus that constricts content complexity to simple moving grey blobs, allowing objective mechanistic investigation. Hallucination strength peaked at ~11 Hz flicker and was dependent on cortical processing. Hallucinated motion speed increased with flicker rate, when mapped onto visual cortex it was independent of eccentricity, underwent local sensory adaptation and showed the same bistable and mnemonic dynamics as sensory perception. A neural field model with motion selectivity provides a mechanism for both hallucinations and perception. Our results demonstrate that hallucinations can be studied objectively, and they share multiple mechanisms with sensory perception. We anticipate that this assay will be critical to test theories of human consciousness and clinical models of hallucination.
Phantom vibration syndrome is a type of hallucination reported among mobile phone users in the general population. Another similar perception, phantom ringing syndrome, has not been previously described in the medical literature.
The sense of body ownership represents a fundamental aspect of our self-consciousness. Influential experimental paradigms, such as the rubber hand illusion (RHI), in which a seen rubber hand is experienced as part of one’s body when one’s own unseen hand receives congruent tactile stimulation, have extensively examined the role of exteroceptive, multisensory integration on body ownership. However, remarkably, despite the more general current interest in the nature and role of interoception in emotion and consciousness, no study has investigated how the illusion may be affected by interoceptive bodily signals, such as affective touch. Here, we recruited 52 healthy, adult participants and we investigated for the first time, whether applying slow velocity, light tactile stimuli, known to elicit interoceptive feelings of pleasantness, would influence the illusion more than faster, emotionally-neutral, tactile stimuli. We also examined whether seeing another person’s hand vs. a rubber hand would reduce the illusion in slow vs. fast stroking conditions, as interoceptive signals are used to represent one’s own body from within and it is unclear how they would be integrated with visual signals from another person’s hand. We found that slow velocity touch was perceived as more pleasant and it produced higher levels of subjective embodiment during the RHI compared with fast touch. Moreover, this effect applied irrespective of whether the seen hand was a rubber or a confederate’s hand. These findings provide support for the idea that affective touch, and more generally interoception, may have a unique contribution to the sense of body ownership, and by implication to our embodied psychological “self.”
Recent research in cognitive neuroscience using virtual reality, robotic technology and brain imaging has linked self-consciousness to the processing and integration of multisensory bodily signals. This work on bodily self-consciousness has implicated the temporo-parietal, premotor and extrastriate cortex and partly originated in work on neurological patients with different disorders of bodily self-consciousness. One class of such disorders is autoscopic phenomena, which are defined as illusory own-body perceptions, during which patients experience the visual illusory reduplication of their own body in extrapersonal space. Three main forms of autoscopic phenomena have been defined. During autoscopic hallucinations, a second own body is seen without any changes in bodily self-consciousness. During out-of-body experiences, the second own body is seen from an elevated perspective and location associated with disembodiment. During heautoscopy, subjects report strong self-identification with the second own body, often associated with the experience of existing at and perceiving the world from two places at the same time. Although it has been proposed that each autoscopic phenomenon is associated with different impairments of bodily self-consciousness, past research on neurological patients and the development of experimental paradigms for the study of bodily self-consciousness has focused on out-of-body experiences and the association with temporo-parietal cortex. Here, we performed quantitative lesion analysis in the-to date-largest group of patients with autoscopic hallucination and heautoscopy and compared the location of brain damage with those of control patients suffering from complex visual hallucinations. We found that heautoscopy was associated with lesions to the left posterior insula, and that autoscopic hallucinations were associated with damage to the right occipital cortex. Autoscopic hallucination and heautoscopy were further associated with distinct symptoms and deficits. The present data suggest that the autoscopic hallucination is a visuo-somatosensory deficit implicating extrastriate cortex and is, despite the visual hallucination of the own body, not associated with major deficits in bodily self-consciousness. Based on the symptoms and deficits in patients with heautoscopy and the implication of the left posterior insula, we suggest that abnormal bodily self-consciousness during heautoscopy is caused by a breakdown of self-other discrimination regarding affective somatosensory experience due to a disintegration of visuo-somatosensory signals with emotional (and/or interoceptive) bodily signals. These brain mechanisms are distinct from those described for out-of-body experiences. The present data extend previous models of autoscopic phenomena and provide clinical evidence for the importance of emotional and interoceptive signal processing in the posterior insula in relation to bodily self-consciousness.
Following the amputation of a limb, many amputees report that they can still vividly perceive its presence despite conscious knowledge that it is not physically there. However, our ability to probe the mental representation of this experience is limited by the intractable and often distressing pain associated with amputation. Here, we present a method for eliciting phantom-like experiences in non-amputees using a variation of the rubber hand illusion in which a finger has been removed from the rubber hand. An interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed that the structure of this experience shares a wide range of sensory attributes with subjective reports of phantom limb experience. For example, when the space where the ring finger should have been on the rubber hand was stroked, 93% of participants (i.e., 28/30) reported the vivid presence of a finger that they could not see and a total of 57% (16/28) of participants who felt that the finger was present reported one or more additional sensory qualities such as tingling or numbness (25%; 7/28) and alteration in the perceived size of the finger (50%; 14/28). These experiences indicate the adaptability of body experience and share some characteristics of the way that phantom limbs are described. Participants attributed changes to the shape and size of their “missing” finger to the way in which the experimenter mimed stroking in the area occupied by the missing finger. This alteration of body perception is similar to the phenomenon of telescoping experienced by people with phantom limbs and suggests that our sense of embodiment not only depends on internal body representations but on perceptual information coming from peripersonal space.
We experience the world as a seamless stream of percepts. However, intriguing illusions and recent experiments suggest that the world is not continuously translated into conscious perception. Instead, perception seems to operate in a discrete manner, just like movies appear continuous although they consist of discrete images. To explain how the temporal resolution of human vision can be fast compared to sluggish conscious perception, we propose a novel conceptual framework in which features of objects, such as their color, are quasi-continuously and unconsciously analyzed with high temporal resolution. Like other features, temporal features, such as duration, are coded as quantitative labels. When unconscious processing is “completed,” all features are simultaneously rendered conscious at discrete moments in time, sometimes even hundreds of milliseconds after stimuli were presented.
Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 5 years ago
An illusory sensation of ownership over a surrogate limb or whole body can be induced through specific forms of multisensory stimulation, such as synchronous visuotactile tapping on the hidden real and visible rubber hand in the rubber hand illusion. Such methods have been used to induce ownership over a manikin and a virtual body that substitute the real body, as seen from first-person perspective, through a head-mounted display. However, the perceptual and behavioral consequences of such transformed body ownership have hardly been explored. In Exp. 1, immersive virtual reality was used to embody 30 adults as a 4-y-old child (condition C), and as an adult body scaled to the same height as the child (condition A), experienced from the first-person perspective, and with virtual and real body movements synchronized. The result was a strong body-ownership illusion equally for C and A. Moreover there was an overestimation of the sizes of objects compared with a nonembodied baseline, which was significantly greater for C compared with A. An implicit association test showed that C resulted in significantly faster reaction times for the classification of self with child-like compared with adult-like attributes. Exp. 2 with an additional 16 participants extinguished the ownership illusion by using visuomotor asynchrony, with all else equal. The size-estimation and implicit association test differences between C and A were also extinguished. We conclude that there are perceptual and probably behavioral correlates of body-ownership illusions that occur as a function of the type of body in which embodiment occurs.