Modulation of pain threshold by virtual body ownership

Article


Martini, M., Perez-Marcos, D. and Sanchez-Vives, M.V. 2014. Modulation of pain threshold by virtual body ownership. European Journal of Pain. 18 (7), pp. 1040-1048.
AuthorsMartini, M., Perez-Marcos, D. and Sanchez-Vives, M.V.
Abstract

Background
Appropriate sensorimotor correlations can result in the illusion of ownership of
exogenous body parts. Nevertheless, whether and how the illusion of owning a new
body part affects human perception, and in particular pain detection, is still poorly
investigated. Recent findings have shown that seeing one’s own body is analgesic, but it
is not known whether this effect is transferable to newly embodied, but exogenous,
body parts. In recent years, results from our laboratory have demonstrated that a virtual
body can be felt as one’s own, provided realistic multisensory correlations.
Methods
The current work aimed at investigating the impact of virtual body ownership on pain
threshold. An immersive virtual environment allowed a first-person perspective of a
virtual body that replaced the own. Passive movement of the index finger congruent
with the movement of the virtual index finger was used in the “synchronous” condition
to induce ownership of the virtual arm. The pain threshold was tested by thermal
stimulation under four conditions: 1) synchronous movements of the real and virtual
fingers, 2) asynchronous movements, 3) seeing a virtual object instead of an arm, and 4)
not seeing any limb in real world.
Results
Our results show that, independently of attentional and stimulus adaptation processes,
the ownership of a virtual arm per se can significantly increase the thermal pain
threshold.
Conclusions
This finding may be relevant for the development and improvement of digital solutions
for rehabilitation and pain treatment.

JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Journal citation18 (7), pp. 1040-1048
ISSN10903801
Year2014
PublisherWiley
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC
Web address (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.1532-2149.2014.00451.x
Publication dates
Print21 Jan 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Dec 2015
FunderEuropean Commission
Copyright informationThis is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Modulation of pain threshold by virtual body ownership, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.1532-2149.2014.00451.x. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving
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