Reach planning with someone else's hand
Number of pages
SourceCortex, 153, (2022), pp. 207-219
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
To investigate the relationship between the sense of body ownership and motor control, we capitalized on a rare bizarre disorder wherein another person's hand is misattributed to their own body, i.e., a pathological form of embodiment (E+). Importantly, despite E+ is usually associated with motor deficits, we had the opportunity to test two E+ patients with spared motor function, thus able to perform a reaching task. Crucially, these patients had proprioceptive deafferentation, allowing us to purely isolate the embodiment-dependent effect from proprioception-dependent ones that are usually associated in experimental manipulations of body ownership in healthy participants. Previous evidence suggests that the reaching movement vector is attracted towards an embodied hand during the rubber hand illusion (RHI). However, these results are confounded by the spared proprioception, whose modulation alone could explain the effects on reach planning. The neuropsychological approach employed here provides unambiguous evidence about the role of body ownership in reach planning. Indeed, three brain-damaged patients with proprioceptive deafferentation, two E+ and a well-matched control patient without pathological embodiment (E-), and 10 age-matched healthy controls underwent a reaching task wherein they had to reach for a target from a fixed starting point, while an alien hand (the co-experimenter's) was placed on the table. Irrespective of proprioception, damaged in all patients, only in E+ patients reaching errors were significantly more shifted consistently with the pathological belief, i.e., as if they planned movements from the position of the alien (embodied) hand, as compared to controls. Furthermore, with an additional experiment on healthy participants, we demonstrated that reaching errors observed during the RHI correlate with the changes in ownership. In conclusion, our neuropsychological approach suggests that when planning a reach, we do so from where our owned hand is and not from its physical location.
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- Faculty of Social Sciences 
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