Seeing an embodied virtual hand is analgesic contingent on co-location

Article


Nierula, Birgit, Martini, M., Matamala-Gomez, Marta, Slater, Mel and Sanchez-Vives, Maria V. 2017. Seeing an embodied virtual hand is analgesic contingent on co-location. The Journal of Pain. 18 (6), pp. 645-655.
AuthorsNierula, Birgit, Martini, M., Matamala-Gomez, Marta, Slater, Mel and Sanchez-Vives, Maria V.
Abstract

Seeing one’s own body has been reported to have analgesic properties. Analgesia has also been
described when seeing an embodied virtual body co-located with the real one. However, there is a
controversy regarding whether this effect holds true when seeing an illusory-owned body part,
such as during the rubber-hand illusion. A critical difference between these paradigms is the
distance between real and surrogate body part. Co-location of real arm and surrogate is possible
in an immersive virtual environment, but not during illusory ownership of a rubber arm. The
present study aimed at testing whether the distance between real and virtual arm can explain such
differences in terms of pain modulation. Employing a paradigm of embodiment of a virtual body
allowed us to evaluate heat pain thresholds (HPT) at co-location and at 30-cm distance between
real and virtual arm. We observed significantly higher HPT at co-location than at 30-cm distance.
The analgesic effects of seeing a virtual co-located arm are eliminated when increasing the
distance between real and virtual arm which explains why seeing an illusorily owned rubber arm
does not consistently result in analgesia. These findings are relevant for the use of virtual reality
in pain management.

KeywordsAnalgesia, body ownership; pain; rubber hand illusion; virtual environments
JournalThe Journal of Pain
Journal citation18 (6), pp. 645-655
ISSN1526-5900
1528-8447
Year2017
PublisherElsevier for American Pain Society
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC-ND
Supplemental file
License
CC BY-NC-ND
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2017.01.003
Publication dates
Print18 Jan 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Jan 2017
Accepted03 Jan 2017
Accepted03 Jan 2017
FunderEuropean Commission Future and Emerging Technologies
European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies
Copyright information© 2017 Elsevier
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