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Body Image. 2005 Sep;2(3):307-13. Epub 2005 Aug 26.

Individual differences in susceptibility to experimentally induced phantom sensations.

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University Hospital Zurich, Department of Neurology, Unit of Neuropsychology, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


We investigated individual differences in susceptibility to two vibration-induced phantom illusions, i.e. illusory arm extension and nose prolongation ("Pinocchio illusion"). Vibration was applied to the biceps brachii tendon of 32 healthy participants. Susceptibility to the illusions was quantified by vividness ratings and by ratings of the amount of illusory position changes of the arm and illusory shape changes of the nose. Participants also completed the Perceptual Aberration (PA) and the Need for Cognition (NFC) inventories. PA reflects the frequency of spontaneously experienced body schema alterations and NFC a person's tendency to cognitively structure experiences. PA was positively correlated with participants' susceptibility to illusory arm extension and, exclusively for men, also to nose elongation. A high NFC was weakly associated with a high susceptibility for the Pinocchio illusion. By inference, these findings indicate a physiological basis of PA and a cognitive mediation of experimentally induced phantom sensations.

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