Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

PLoS One. 2016 Aug 19;11(8):e0160498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160498

Not That Heart-Stopping After All: Visuo-Cardiac Synchrony Does Not Boost Self-Face Attribution

Recent experimental evidence and theoretical models suggest that an integration of exteroceptive and interoceptive signals underlies several key aspects of the bodily self. While it has been shown that self-attribution of both the hand and the full-body are altered by conflicting extero-exteroceptive (e.g. visuo-tactile) and extero-interoceptive (e.g. visuo-cardiac) information, no study has thus far investigated whether self-attribution of the face might be altered by visuo-cardiac stimulation similarly to visuo-tactile stimulation. In three independent groups of participants we presented ambiguous (i.e. morphed with a stranger's face) self-faces flashing synchronously or asynchronously with the participants' heartbeat. We then measured the subjective percentages of self-face attribution of morphed stimuli. To control for a potential effect of visuo-cardiac synchrony on familiarity, a task assessing the attribution of a familiar face was introduced. Moreover, different durations of visuo-cardiac flashing and different degrees of asynchronicity were used. Based on previous studies showing that synchronous visuo-cardiac stimulation generally increases self-attribution of the full-body and the hand, and that synchronous visuo-tactile stimulation increases self-face attribution, we predicted higher self-face attribution during the synchronous visuo-cardiac flashing of the morphed stimuli. In contrast to this hypothesis, the results showed no difference between synchronous and asynchronous stimulation on self-face attribution in any of the three studies. We thus conclude that visuo-cardiac synchrony does not boost self-attribution of the face as it does that of hand and full-body.
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