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A gravitational contribution to perceived body weight

Ferre, ER; Frett, T; Haggard, P; Longo, MR; (2019) A gravitational contribution to perceived body weight. Scientific Reports , 9 , Article 114. 10.1038/s41598-019-47663-x. Green open access

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Abstract

The weightlessness experienced by astronauts has fascinated scientists and the public. On Earth, body weight is given by Newton’s laws as mass times gravitational acceleration. That is, an object’s weight is determined by the pull of gravity on it. We hypothesised that perceived body weight is – like actual weight – dependent on the strength of gravity. If so, changes in the experienced strength of gravity should alter the experience of one’s own body weight. We asked participants to estimate the weight of two body parts, their hand or their head, both in normal terrestrial gravity (1 g) and during exposure to experimentally altered gravitational fields, 0 g and +1.8 g during parabolic flight and +1 g using a short arm human centrifuge. For both body parts, there was an increase in perceived weight during the experience of hypergravity, and a decrease during the experience of microgravity. Our results show that experimental alterations of gravity produce rapid changes in the perceived weight of specific individual body parts. Traditionally, research has focused on the social factors for weight perception, as in the putative role of mass media in eating disorders. Our results, in contrast, emphasize that the perception of body weight is highly malleable, and shaped by immediate sensory signals.

Type: Article
Title: A gravitational contribution to perceived body weight
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47663-x
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47663-x
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Cognitive neuroscience, Human behaviour
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080593
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