Plasticity in Unimodal and Multimodal Brain Areas Reflects Multisensory Changes in Self-Face Identification
Nothing provides as strong a sense of self as seeing one's face. Nevertheless, it remains unknown how the brain processes the sense of self during the multisensory experience of looking at one's face in a mirror. Synchronized visuo-tactile stimulation on one's own and another's face, an experience that is akin to looking in the mirror but seeing another's face, causes the illusory experience of ownership over the other person's face and changes in self-recognition. Here, we investigate the neural correlates of this enfacement illusion using fMRI. We examine activity in the human brain as participants experience tactile stimulation delivered to their face, while observing either temporally synchronous or asynchronous tactile stimulation delivered to another's face on either a specularly congruent or incongruent location. Activity in the multisensory right temporo-parietal junction, intraparietal sulcus, and the unimodal inferior occipital gyrus showed an interaction between the synchronicity and the congruency of the stimulation and varied with the self-reported strength of the illusory experience, which was recorded after each stimulation block. Our results highlight the important interplay between unimodal and multimodal information processing for self-face recognition, and elucidate the neurobiological basis for the plasticity required for identifying with our continuously changing visual appearance.