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Neural mechanisms of body ownership and the projection of ownership onto artificial bodies

Objective

How do we recognize that our limbs are part of our own body, and why do we feel that one’s self is located inside the body? These fundamental questions have been discussed in theology, philosophy and psychology for millennia. The aim of my ground-breaking research programme is to identify the neuronal mechanisms that produce the sense of ownership of the body, and the processes responsible for the feeling that the self is located inside the physical body. To solve these questions I will adopt an inter-disciplinary approach using state-of-the-art methods from the fields of imaging neuroscience, experimental psychology, computer science and robotics. My first hypothesis is that the mechanism for body ownership is the integration of information from different sensory modalities (vision, touch and muscle sense) in multi-sensory brain areas (ventral premotor and intraparietal cortex). My second hypothesis is that the sense of where you are located in the environment is mediated by allocentric spatial representations in medial temporal lobes. To test this, I will use perceptual illusions and virtual-reality techniques that allow me to manipulate body ownership and the perceived location of the self, in conjunction with non-invasive recordings of brain activity in healthy humans. Functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography will be used to identify the neuronal correlates of ownership and ‘in-body experiences’, while transcranial magnetic stimulation will be used to examine the causal relationship between neural activity and ownership. It is no overstatement to say that my pioneering work could define a new sub-field in cognitive neuroscience dealing with how the brain represents the self. These basic scientific discoveries will be used in new frontier applications. For example, the development of a prosthetic limb that feels just like a real limb, and a method of controlling humanoid robots by the illusion of ‘becoming the robot’.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/radiology/medical imaging/magnetic resonance imaging
  • /social sciences/psychology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/neurobiology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/neurobiology/neuroscience/cognitive neuroscience
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/neurobiology/neuroscience

Call for proposal

ERC-2007-StG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET
Address
Nobels Vag 5
17177 Stockholm
Sweden
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 909 850
Principal investigator
H. Henrik Ehrsson (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Eva Tegelberg (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (1)

KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET
Sweden
EU contribution
€ 909 850
Address
Nobels Vag 5
17177 Stockholm
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
H. Henrik Ehrsson (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Eva Tegelberg (Ms.)