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Mirror-touch synaesthesia changes representations of self-identity.

Maister, L; Banissy, MJ; Tsakiris, M; (2013) Mirror-touch synaesthesia changes representations of self-identity. Neuropsychologia , 51 (5) 802 - 808. 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.01.020. Green open access

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Abstract

Individuals with mirror-touch synaesthesia (MTS) experience touch on their own bodies when observing another person being touched. Whilst somatosensory processing in MTS has been extensively investigated, the extent to which the remapping of observed touch on the synaesthete's body can also lead to changes in the mental representation of the self remains unknown. We adapted the experimental paradigm of the 'enfacement illusion' to quantify the changes in self-face recognition as a result of synaesthetic touch. MTS and control participants observed the face of an unfamiliar person being touched or not, without delivering touch on the participant's face. Changes in self-representation were quantified with a self-face recognition task, using 'morphed' images containing varying proportions of the participant's face and the face of the unfamiliar other. This task was administered before and after the exposure to the other face. While self-recognition performance for both groups was similar during pre-test, MTS individuals showed a significant change in self-recognition performance following the observation of touch delivered to the other face. Specifically, the images that participants had initially perceived as containing equal quantities of self and other became more likely to be recognised as the self after viewing the other being touched. These results suggest that observing touch on others not only elicits a conscious experience of touch in MTS, but also elicits a change in the mental representation of the self, blurring self-other boundaries. This is consistent with a multisensory account of the self, whereby integrated multisensory experiences maintain or update self-representations.

Type: Article
Title: Mirror-touch synaesthesia changes representations of self-identity.
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.01.020
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013....
Language: English
Additional information: © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. PMCID: PMC3750874
Keywords: Body Image, Face, Female, Humans, Illusions, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Photic Stimulation, Questionnaires, Recognition (Psychology), Self Concept, Statistics, Nonparametric, Touch, Touch Perception, Young Adult
UCL classification: 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/1386993
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