Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 8;9(1):1682. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-38213-y

Malleability of the self: electrophysiological correlates of the enfacement illusion

Self-face representation is fundamentally important for self-identity and self-consciousness. Given its role in preserving identity over time, self-face processing is considered as a robust and stable process. Yet, recent studies indicate that simple psychophysics manipulations may change how we process our own face. Specifically, experiencing tactile facial stimulation while seeing similar synchronous stimuli delivered to the face of another individual seen as in a mirror, induces 'enfacement' illusion, i.e. the subjective experience of ownership of the other's face and a bias in attributing to the self, facial features of the other person. Here we recorded visual Event-Related Potentials elicited by the presentation of self, other and morphed faces during a self-other discrimination task performed immediately after participants received synchronous and control asynchronous Interpersonal Multisensory Stimulation (IMS). We found that self-face presentation after synchronous as compared to asynchronous stimulation significantly reduced the late positive potential (LPP; 450-750 ms), a reliable electrophysiological marker of self-identification processes. Additionally, enfacement cancelled out the differences in LPP amplitudes produced by self- and other-face during the control condition. These findings represent the first direct neurophysiological evidence that enfacement may affect self-face processing and pave the way to novel paradigms for exploring defective self-representation and self-other interactions.

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