Illusory body resizing typically uses multisensory integration to change the perceived size of a body part. Previous studies associate these multisensory body illusions with frontal theta oscillations and parietal gamma oscillations for dis-integration and integration of multisensory signals, respectively. However, recent studies also support illusory changes of embodiment from unimodal visual stimuli. This preregistered study (N = 48) investigated differences between multisensory visuo-tactile and unimodal visual resizing illusions using EEG, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the neural underpinnings of resizing illusions in a healthy population. We hypothesised (1) stronger illusion in multisensory compared to unimodal, and unimodal compared to incongruent (dis-integration) conditions, (2) greater parietal gamma during multisensory compared to unimodal, and (3) greater frontal theta during incongruent compared to baseline conditions. Subjective Illusory results partially support Hypothesis 1, showing a stronger illusion in multisensory compared to unimodal conditions, but finding no significant difference comparing unimodal to incongruent conditions. Results partially supported EEG hypotheses, finding increased parietal gamma activity comparing multisensory to unimodal visual conditions, happening at a later stage of the illusion when compared to previous rubber hand illusion EEG findings, whilst also finding increased parietal theta activity when comparing incongruent to non-illusion conditions. While results demonstrated that only 27% of participants experienced the stretching illusion with unimodal visual stimuli compared to 73% of participants experiencing the stretching illusion in the multisensory condition, further analysis suggested that those who experience visual-only illusions exhibit a different neural signature to those who do not, with activity focussed around frontal and parietal regions early on in the illusory manipulation, compared to activity focussed more over parietal regions and at a later point in the illusory manipulation for the full sample of participants. Our results replicate previous subjective experience findings and support the importance of multisensory integration for illusory changes in perceived body size, whilst adding to our understanding of the temporal onset of multisensory integration within resizing illusions, differing from that of rubber hand illusions.
Kirralise J. Hansford, University of York
Daniel H. Baker, University of York
Kirsten J. McKenzie, University of Lincoln
Catherine E.J. Preston, University of York