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  Seeing an embodied virtual hand is analgesic contingent on colocation

Nierula, B., Martini, M., Matamala-Gomez, M., Slater, M., & Sanchez-Vives, M. V. (2017). Seeing an embodied virtual hand is analgesic contingent on colocation. The Journal of Pain, 18(6), 645-655. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2017.01.003.

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Nierula, Birgit1, 2, Author           
Martini, Matteo1, 2, Author
Matamala-Gomez, Marta1, 2, Author
Slater, Mel2, 3, Author
Sanchez-Vives, Maria V.1, 2, 3, 4, Author
1Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Barcelona, Spain, ou_persistent22              
2Event-Lab, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, Spain, ou_persistent22              
3Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, ou_persistent22              
4Department of Basic Psychology, University of Barcelona, Spain, ou_persistent22              


Free keywords: Analgesia; body ownership; pain; rubber hand illusion; virtual environments
 Abstract: Seeing one's own body has been reported to have analgesic properties. Analgesia has also been described when seeing an embodied virtual body colocated with the real one. However, there is controversy regarding whether this effect holds true when seeing an illusory-owned body part, such as during the rubber-hand illusion. A critical difference between these paradigms is the distance between the real and surrogate body part. Colocation of the real and surrogate arm is possible in an immersive virtual environment, but not during illusory ownership of a rubber arm. The present study aimed at testing whether the distance between a real and a virtual arm can explain such differences in terms of pain modulation. Using a paradigm of embodiment of a virtual body allowed us to evaluate heat pain thresholds at colocation and at a 30-cm distance between the real and the virtual arm. We observed a significantly higher heat pain threshold at colocation than at a 30-cm distance. The analgesic effects of seeing a virtual colocated arm were eliminated by increasing the distance between the real and the virtual arm, which explains why seeing an illusorily owned rubber arm does not consistently result in analgesia. These findings are relevant for the use of virtual reality in pain management.

Looking at a virtual body has analgesic properties similar to looking at one's real body. We identify the importance of colocation between a real and a surrogate body for this to occur and thereby resolve a scientific controversy. This information is useful for exploiting immersive virtual reality in pain management.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2016-12-202016-06-132017-01-032017-01-182017-06
 Publication Status: Issued
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.01.003
Other: Epub 2017
PMID: 28108385
 Degree: -



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Project information

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Project name : Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-Embodiment / VERE
Grant ID : 257695
Funding program : Funding Programme 7
Funding organization : European Commission (EC)

Source 1

Title: The Journal of Pain
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: New York : Elsevier
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 18 (6) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 645 - 655 Identifier: ISSN: 1526-5900
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1526-5900