27 Jun 2014

What the Rubber Hand Illusion can tell us about Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Image: Vanderbilt
Evidence from past research suggests that behaviours and characteristics related to body dissatisfaction may be associated with greater instability of perceptual body image, possibly due to problems in the integration of body-related multisensory information. A MAPrc team investigated whether people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a condition characterised by body image disturbances, demonstrated enhanced susceptibility to the rubber hand illusion (RHI), which arises as a result of multisensory (i.e. touch and vision) integration processes when a rubber hand and the participant's hidden real hand are stimulated in synchrony.
Overall, differences in RHI experience between the BDD group and healthy and schizophrenia control groups were not significant. RHI strength, however, was positively associated with body dissatisfaction and related tendencies. For the healthy control group, proprioceptive drift towards the rubber hand was observed following synchronous but not asynchronous stimulation, a typical pattern when inducing the RHI. Similar drifts in proprioceptive awareness occurred for the BDD group irrespective of whether stimulation was synchronous or not. These results are discussed in terms of possible abnormalities in visual processing and multisensory integration among people with BDD.
Reference: Ryan A. Kaplan, Peter G. Enticott, Jakob Hohwy, David J. Castle, Susan L. Rossell. Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder associated with abnormal bodily self-awareness? A Study Using the Rubber Hand Illusion. PLOSOne. Published: June 12, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099981
Follow Ryan Kaplan on Twitter @ryankaplanpsych

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