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When you feel you are being touched, usually someone or something is physically touching you and you perceive that your "self" is located in the same place as your body. In new research published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, neuroscientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, investigated the relationship between bodily self-consciousness and the way touch stimuli are spatially represented in humans. They found that sensations of touch can be felt and mislocalised towards where a "virtual" body is seen. These findings will provide new avenues for the animation of virtual worlds and machines.
This study demonstrates that changes in self-consciousness ('where am I located?' and 'what is my body?') are accompanied by changes in where touch sensations are experienced in space. Importantly, these data reveal that brain mechanisms of multisensory processing are crucial for the "I" of conscious experience and can be scientifically manipulated in order to animate and incarnate virtual humans, robots, and machines.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the Public Library of Science