Our understanding of body ownership largely relies on the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) paradigm where synchronous stroking of the real and fake hands leads to an illusion of ownership of RH provided its physical, anatomical, and spatial plausibility. Self-attribution of a fake hand also occurs during visuomotor synchrony, when the visual feedback of self-initiated movements follows the trajectory of the instantiated motor command. In both cases, the experience of ownership is established through bottom-up integration and top-down prediction of multisensory (proximodistal) cues within the peripersonal space. It seems, however, that depending on whether the signals are externally or self-generated, top-down expectation signals are qualitatively different. On the one hand, in RHI, the sensory correlations are modulated by empirically induced priors about the internal model of the body. On the other hand, in mRHI, body ownership is actively shaped by processes allowing for continuous comparison between the actual and predicted sensory consequences of the actions. Ample research demonstrates that the differential processing of the predicted and the actual reafferent information is addressed by the central nervous system via an internal Forward Model (FM). Indeed, results from mRHI suggest that in action-contexts mechanism underlying body ownership could be similar to the FM. Crucially FMs integrate across all sensory input including not only proximodistal (visuomotor) but also purely distal sensory signals (visuoauditory). Thus if body ownership results from a consistency of FM, it would be affected by the (in)congruency of purely distal signals provided that they inform about the action-consequences relevant to the task. Here we explicitly address this question. To test our hypothesis, we devise an embodied VR-based task where action outcomes were signaled by distinct auditory cues. By manipulating the cues with respect to their spatial, temporal and semantic congruency, we show that purely distal feedback violating predictions about action outcomes compromises both body ownership and performance. These results demonstrate that body ownership is influenced by cues which not only pertain to the body itself but also those arising outside of the body, and suggest that in goal-oriented tasks body ownership might result from the consistency of forward models.
Grechuta, K., Ulysse, L., Rubio Ballester, B., & Verschure, P. (2019). Self beyond the body: action-driven and task-relevant purely distal cues modulate performance and body ownership. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13, 91.