Phantom touch illusion, an unexpected phenomenological effect of tactile gating in the absence of tactile stimulation
PubDate: Nov 2023
Teams: Ruhr-University Bochum
Writers: Artur Pilacinski, Marita Metzler & Christian Klaes
We report the presence of a tingling sensation perceived during self-touch without physical stimulation. We used immersive virtual reality scenarios in which subjects touched their body using a virtual object. This touch resulted in a tingling sensation corresponding to the location touched on the virtual body. We called it “phantom touch illusion” (PTI). Interestingly, the illusion was also reported when subjects touched invisible (inferred) parts of their limb. We reason that this PTI results from tactile gating process during self-touch if there is no tactile input to supress. The reported PTI when touching invisible body parts indicates that tactile gating is not exclusively based on vision, but rather on multi-sensory, top-down input involving body schema. This supplementary finding shows that representations of one’s own body are defined top-down, beyond the available sensory information.