Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2014;32(5):611-22. doi: 10.3233/RNN-130385.

Rubber hand illusion highlights massive visual capture and sensorimotor face-hand remapping in a tetraplegic man

PURPOSE: The illusory ownership of a fake hand as part the body follows synchronous tactile stimulation over a visible rubber hand and a covered hand. Whether brain plasticity mechanisms after sensory and motor disconnection modulates this illusion remain unexplored.

METHODS: We tested a tetraplegic man after synchronous and asynchronous stimulation of the hand and face.

RESULTS: The illusory ownership of the fake hand was tested four times in separate days and always reported. To verify whether this ownership feeling generalized also to object not resembling the human body we tested this illusion with a plastic bottle and a rubber hand. The illusionary perception of owning an external object using the rubber hand paradigm showed that the temporally matched tactile stimulation on a fake hand and visual capture mechanism create the illusionary feeling that the rubber hand was part of his body.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite lesions that dramatically disconnect the access to sensory inputs and motor outputs our data suggests a strong visual capture of a rubber hand and a possible remapping of hand-face representations after the spinal lesion. We suggest that vision and brain plasticity may represent a supportive tool for motor rehabilitation in patients with sensory deficits.

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