The rubber hand illusion is a fallible method to study ownership of prosthetic limbs
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2021

Enabling sensory feedback in limb prostheses can reverse a damaged body image caused by amputation. The rubber hand illusion (RHI) is a popular paradigm to study ownership of artificial limbs and potentially useful to assess sensory feedback strategies. We investigated the RHI as means to induce ownership of a prosthetic hand by providing congruent visual and tactile stimuli. We elicited tactile sensations via electric stimulation of severed afferent nerve fibres in four participants with transhumeral amputation. Contrary to our expectations, they failed to experience the RHI. The sensations we elicited via nerve stimulation resemble tapping as opposed to stroking, as in the original RHI. We therefore investigated the effect of tapping versus stroking in 30 able-bodied subjects. We found that either tactile modality equally induced ownership in two-thirds of the subjects. Failure to induce the RHI in the intact hand of our participants with amputation later confirmed that they form part of the RHI-immune population. Conversely, these participants use neuromusculoskeletal prostheses with neural sensory feedback in their daily lives and reported said prostheses as part of their body. Our findings suggest that people immune to the RHI can nevertheless experience ownership over prosthetic limbs when used in daily life and accentuates a significant limitation of the RHI paradigm.

rubber hand illusion

personal space

multisensory integration


Jan Zbinden

Center for Bionics and Pain Research

Chalmers, Elektroteknik, System- och reglerteknik

Max Jair Ortiz Catalan

Sahlgrenska universitetssjukhuset

Göteborgs universitet

Chalmers, Elektroteknik, System- och reglerteknik

Center for Bionics and Pain Research

Scientific Reports

2045-2322 (ISSN) 20452322 (eISSN)

Vol. 11 1 4423




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