A new study by Dr. Keisuke Suzuki, Professor Anil Seth, and colleagues at the Sackler Centre – published in the journalNeuropsychologia - now shows that external visualization of one’s heartbeat can influence what we experience as our own body.
The team used a unique combination of heartbeat monitoring and augmented reality to implement a ‘cardio-visual’ version of the rubber hand illusion. Participants wore a ‘head mounted display’ through which they saw a virtual-reality version of their own hand projected in front of them, while their real hand remained hidden out of view. The virtual hand was made to pulse to red and back either in-time or out-of-time with their heartbeat.
The researchers found that the virtual hand was more likely to be experienced as part of a person’s body when the ‘cardio-visual’ feedback was aligned with the actual heartbeat, than when it was misaligned. This shows that the brain integrates its perception of the body from the outside with its perception from the inside, in determining what is experienced as its body.