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March 2014 eNewsletter

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March 2014 eNewsletter

Human PhysiologyAnimal PhysiologyExercise PhysiologyNeurobiologyPsychological Physiology

Focus on Physiology Newsletter

The Rubber Hand Illusion


Lab written in conjunction with:
Dr. Jim Grigsby, Professor of Psychology & Professor of Medicine (Division of Health Care Policy and Research, Division of Geriatrics) and Mr. Greg Fliney, Senior Research Specialist University of Colorado, Denver


An amazing illusion was discovered by Pennsylvania psychologists approximately ten (10) years ago. They found that they could convince people that a rubber hand was actually their own hand just by putting it on a table in front of them while stroking it in the same manner as their real hand.


This is now known as the "Rubber Hand Illusion." It was not only a mind-blowing party trick, it was also hugely important in understanding how sight, touch and "proprioception," the sense of body position, combine to create a convincing feeling of body ownership, which is one of the foundations of self-consciousness (Nature, vol 391, p 756).


Rubber Hand Illusion


The understanding of the feeling of “body ownership” has been explored further using increasingly odd and crazy illusions. The rubber hand illusion test has really inspired people to move on to discover all sorts of methods to test these foundations. One neuroscientist, Henrik Ehrsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, is one of many researchers who have taken the illusion and created a whole new set of "body illusions" that have the ability to mess with our sense of self in strange and disturbing ways.


The ultimate goal of these tests is to gain an understanding of how the brain represents the body. It has to do with the idea of multisensory integration; your eyes, your skin, your muscles and nerves. The brain combines all of them in just the right way to perceive your entire sense of “body ownership”.


Though the Rubber Hand Illusion is only one of many of these types of ‘tests’, it is easy to perform in the lab and is lots of fun. All you really need is a fake hand of some kind (an inflated rubber glove may even work), a box, a two-way mirror and two small paintbrushes. The iWorx equipment takes this illusion a step further and actually allows the researcher to examine the physiological functions that can occur while the illusion is happening. These include pulse and heart rate, galvanic skin response, muscle activity using electromyograms, and temperature.



Download the Rubber Hand Illusion Experiment:


Read only version (.zip)
Open version (iWorx users) (.zip)


LabScribe Settings Tutorial (The Settings Manager in LabScribe2 permits numerous pieces of support material to be linked to a settings file and opened automatically when the settings file is selected from the Settings menu. In LabScribe2, animations, illustrations, movies, websites, experimental write-ups, and more can be opened automatically when a settings file is opened.)


Web Resources


More information on kinesiology and targeted muscle EMG, as well as additional external physiology-related links.

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