A novel manipulation method of human body ownership using an fMRI-compatible master-slave system
Bodily self-consciousness has become an important topic in cognitive neuroscience aiming to understand how the brain creates a unified sensation of the self in a body. Specifically, full body illusion (FBI) in which changes in bodily self-consciousness are experimentally introduced using visual-tactile stimulation has led to improve understanding of these mechanisms. This paper introduces a novel approach to the classic FBI paradigm using a robotic master-slave system which allows us to examine the interactions between action and the sense of body ownership in behavioral and MRI experiments. In the proposed approach, the use of the robotic master-slave system enables unique stimulation in which experimental participants can administer tactile cues on their own back using active self-touch. This active self-touch has never been employed in FBI experiments and it allows to test the role of sensorimotor integration and agency (the feeling of control over our actions) in FBI paradigms. The objective of this study is to propose a robotic-haptic platform allowing a new FBI paradigm including the active self-touch. This paper, first, describes the design concept and the performance of the prototype device in the fMRI environment (for 3T and 7T MRI scanners). In addition, the prototype device is applied to a classic FBI experiment and we verify that the use of the prototype device succeeded in inducing the FBI. These results indicate that the proposed approach has potential to drive advances in our understanding of human body ownership and agency by allowing novel manipulation and paradigms.