The Virtual Hand Illusion in Obesity: Dissociation Between Multisensory Interactions Supporting Illusory Experience and Self-Location Recalibration

Sofia Tagini, Federica Scarpina, Francesca Bruni, Massimo Scacchi, Alessandro Mauro, Massimiliano Zampini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) is used widely to investigate the multisensory integration mechanisms that support bodily self-consciousness and, more specifically, body ownership and self-location. It has been reported that individuals affected by obesity show anomalous multisensory integration processes. We propose that these obesity-induced changes could lead to an unusual susceptibility to the RHI and anomalous bodily self-experience. To test this hypothesis, we administered a modified version of the RHI (using a picture of the participant's hand) to individuals affected by obesity and participants with a healthy weight. During synchronous and asynchronous stimulation, we compared the subjective experience of the illusion (using a questionnaire) and the effect of the illusion on self-location (i.e., proprioceptive drift). In accordance with the illusion phenomenology, both groups had a comparable subjective illusory experience after the synchronous stimulation. Nevertheless, individuals affected by obesity showed less recalibration of self-location than healthy weight participants. In light of a recent interpretation of the multisensory integration mechanisms that underpin the RHI, our findings suggest that in obesity visuo-tactile integration supporting the subjective experience of the illusion is preserved, whereas visuo-proprioceptive integration for self-location is reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalMultisensory research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 1 2019


Cite this