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The Redundant Signals Effect and the Full Body Illusion: Not Multisensory, But Unisensory Tactile Stimuli are Affected by the Illusion

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journal contribution
posted on 06.04.2021, 13:26 by Lieke M. J. Swinkels, Harm Veling, Hein T. van Schie
During a full body illusion (FBI), participants experience a change in self-location towards a body that they see in front of them from a third-person perspective and experience touch to originate from this body. Multisensory integration is thought to underlie this illusion. In the present study we tested the redundant signals effect (RSE) as a new objective measure of the illusion that was designed to directly tap into the multisensory integration underlying the illusion. The illusion was induced by an experimenter who stroked and tapped the participant’s shoulder and underarm, while participants perceived the touch on the virtual body in front of them via a head-mounted display. Participants performed a speeded detection task, responding to visual stimuli on the virtual body, to tactile stimuli on the real body and to combined (multisensory) visual and tactile stimuli. Analysis of the RSE with a race model inequality test indicated that multisensory integration took place in both the synchronous and the asynchronous condition. This surprising finding suggests that simultaneous bodily stimuli from different (visual and tactile) modalities will be transiently integrated into a multisensory representation even when no illusion is induced. Furthermore, this finding suggests that the RSE is not a suitable objective measure of body illusions. Interestingly however, responses to the unisensory tactile stimuli in the speeded detection task were found to be slower and had a larger variance in the asynchronous condition than in the synchronous condition. The implications of this finding for the literature on body representations are discussed.

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