Journal article

Leg muscle vibration modulates bodily self-consciousness: integration of proprioceptive, visual, and tactile signals

Behavioral studies have used visuo-tactile conflicts between a participant's body and a visually presented fake or virtual body to investigate the importance of bodily perception for self-consciousness (bodily self-consciousness). Illusory self-identification with a fake body and changes in tactile processing--modulation of visuo-tactile cross-modal congruency effects (CCEs)--were reported in previous findings. Although proprioceptive signals are deemed important for bodily self-consciousness, their contribution to the representation of the full body has not been studied. Here we investigated whether and how self-identification and tactile processing (CCE magnitude) could be modified by altering proprioceptive signals with 80-Hz vibrations at the legs. Participants made elevation judgments of tactile cues (while ignoring nearby lights) during synchronous and asynchronous stroking of a seen fake body. We found that proprioceptive signals during vibrations altered the magnitude of self-identification and mislocalization of touch (CCE) in a synchrony-dependent fashion: we observed an increase of self-identification and CCE magnitude during asynchronous stroking. In a second control experiment we studied whether proprioceptive signals per se, or those from the lower limbs in particular, were essential for these changes. We applied vibrations at the upper limbs (which provide no information about the position of the participant's body in space) and in this case observed no modulation of bodily self-consciousness or tactile perception. These data link proprioceptive signals from the legs that are conveyed through the dorsal column-medial lemniscal pathway to bodily self-consciousness. We discuss their integration with bodily signals from vision and touch for full-body representations.

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