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Scientists claim that 'self' can relocate to other bodies, or be made to include a third arm

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February 24, 2011

Neoroscientists claim that the transference of one's self to another body (as depicted her...

Neoroscientists claim that the transference of one's self to another body (as depicted here in the film 'Metropolis') is possible, on a psychological level

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For millennia, philosophers have debated whether or not the self exists solely in the mind, the body, or both. Well, it's unclear whether this will help clear things up or just muddy the waters further, but Swedish neuroscientists are now claiming that the human brain can add outside objects such as a third arm to one's physical sense of self, and that people can even mentally project their "self" out of their own body and into someone else's. If these findings hold up, the implications for virtual reality, robotics and prostheses could be substantial.

Experiments were performed at Stockholm's Karolinska Institutet medical university, in which a highly-realistic prosthetic right arm was placed on a table beside human subjects' own arms, so they could see all three. Scientists then simultaneously touched both the prosthetic arm and the subjects' own right arms with a small brush, at the same location on both arms.

"What happens then is that a conflict arises in the brain concerning which of the right hands belongs to the participant's body," said Arvid Guterstam, one of the scientists conducting the research. "What one could expect is that only one of the hands is experienced as one's own, presumably the real arm. But what we found, surprisingly, is that the brain solves this conflict by accepting both right hands as part of the body image, and the subjects experience having an extra third arm."

The 'third arm' experiment being performed at Karolinska (Photo: Henrik Ehrsson)

When scientists threatened either the prosthetic arm or the real arm with a knife, the subjects' measured stress response was the same.

It is hoped that the scientists' findings could eventually be applied to people such as partially-paralyzed stroke victims, so that they could incorporate a functioning prosthetic arm into their body image while still also retaining their existing paralyzed arm within that image. It has even been suggested that resulting technology could have applications for people in demanding work situations such as paramedics or firemen, who could always use an extra arm.

Transferring the self

A related study at Karolinska is said to have resulted in people perceiving that their physical selves were located not in their own bodies, but in those of other test subjects. We're currently waiting to hear back from the university, as to how this was achieved or verified.

"By clarifying how the normal brain produces a sense of ownership of the body, we can learn to project ownership onto artificial bodies and simulated virtual ones, and even make two people have the experience of swapping bodies with one another," stated study leader Henrik Ehrsson.

So far, he has reportedly been able to "transfer" subjects' selves into bodies of a different sex, age, or size, but not into inanimate objects. In one ongoing robotics-related project, however, researchers are trying to determine if someone's perceived body can be shrunk down to the size of a Barbie doll.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
22 Comments

Self is Soul, a transparentlike ONLY FULL body , in wich you can see your own bones.

Daniel Plata Baca
24th February, 2011 @ 11:18 am PST

Doc Oc already proved this 2 spiderman movies ago...

Howe
24th February, 2011 @ 04:00 pm PST

philosophers. as long as there are absolutists there will be philosophers. for everone in between, the people who aren't stuck in the renaissance, they're all just annoying. honestly i think philosophers are for the most part scared people who aren't willing to take a chance, and don't like the idea of being left behind so they try and hold everyone back while hiding behind a mask of wisdom. if it were up to the absolutists we had the answer to everything from the beginning. if it were up to the philosophers we'll never have any answers. between the two of them we have managed to survive this far, but in 2011 they're just slowing us down. going all neo-mystic and pondering the idea of self is like pondering the existance of a chair, honestly it's rediculous. this self might just be a collection of matter in an elaborate form, but it still freakin exists. honestly these people are lost in their own head. words grounded on nothing are just pointless maths. they mean nothing

Kiel Stuart (@kielrhys)
24th February, 2011 @ 04:38 pm PST

Great article Ben! I'd be very interested to hear more on the Karolinska study.

@gimeney cricket

You have a very shallow understanding of what you are talking about. Further, your position is actually absolute in its conclusions, which is hypocritical if not somewhat, you know, stupid, considering what you are trying to argue. I suspect your post is a form of procrastination.

Jacob William
24th February, 2011 @ 05:31 pm PST

OF COURSE they would tell you this just before they KILL you!

Ben Crumpacker
24th February, 2011 @ 06:39 pm PST

This isn't exactly new. I remember this type of study from when I did psychology at uni nearly 20 years ago.

Also, here is an e-how that demonstrates the same or at least similar principle

http://www.wikihow.com/Feel-Like-You-Have-Two-Noses

And any guy who has watched Funniest Home Videos will know it is possible to feel another man's pain...

Scion
24th February, 2011 @ 08:08 pm PST

Im writing this in Sydney but Im really in Honolulu.

Facebook User
24th February, 2011 @ 08:19 pm PST

Sounds more like a trick of the mind and your own perceptions rather than any real transference of consciousness or anything beyond a neat trick... kinda like when you flinch or cringe when watching someone else get cut on TV or in a movie, you can almost feel the sensation of what you see on the screen... just another neat trick or psychological phenomenon...

Facebook User
24th February, 2011 @ 08:21 pm PST

This is nothing new, Jaron Lanier discovered this in the early 1980's when a VR immersion program went haywire and he wound up with a huge thumb. Through experimentation, he discovered how to manipulate new, artificial virtual limbs. Saw him talk about this at a TED talk here:

Chris Maresca
25th February, 2011 @ 02:34 am PST

Ir seems likely that what's going on here is mental confusion rather than synthesis. With extended experience, the mind will learn to distinguish ever more subtle differences between visual images and other sensory input, and then once again will draw the distinction between self and non-self/other.

This is not to deny cognitive plasticity, only to say that I don't think this study has that much to say about it.

Loving It All
25th February, 2011 @ 05:41 am PST

Yes, philosophers can go on about, if reality is in reality a vision of a collective set frequency. Well, yep!. For centuries from early cilvilisations, man has had some form of shamens/wise souls that predict whats going to happen in the foreceable future. Well, surely the experiment above reinforces that we each control our own destiny, thus, infact are biological computers that know if we raise our leg to move forward, you already know the ground it will hit in advance. My imagine if you have taken some form of intoxication of where the real becomes fluid. Now taking that step forward, is in a distorted reality, thus the ground in front gives way to abundance of options. This example, proves one thing, and that is, that we predict our next moment, by simply pre-taught patterns of past memories.

Its is true philosophers have their head in the clouds, and you would not probably want one operating machinery near you!. But, just like yoga, or any anti-stress programmes, you need to get your brain waves at a steady pattern, before excercising a sence of well-being. Insome ancient asian cultures, it is said one should never leave their house with stress, otherwise the chance of injury or making a mistake is increased several fold.

Alot of work since the 60's and these days, have concluded that certain brain waveforms, are infact actual kinetic instructions, minus any physical connection. So, surely why would it be so bazaar, that one can feel artificial ownership of robotic/plastic limbs, or premeditated pain of others. The secret is amplifying the thought, and making the energy around you part and parcel, of your domain self. After all, everything is energy, so why can't oneself morpth into the surrounding at choosing?... now thats another subject for another day!

One test you can do without leaving your chair, is remember a time on a hot day. As the sun heats the pavement with its greater energy magnitude, what is the vision ahead doing?. The energy of the sun, is infact changing the reality of fixed vision energy of a normal day. Thus, the science tells you its the heat that you are looking at, but, what if I told you that the heat energy is greater, and distorting the energy of reality... then what would you think!

In life we are groomed constantly to think a certain way, because then you continue to operate in the pre-set frequency; like machines and pre-programmed robots. In the West this ethos of thinking is most common, and so is cancer. Imagine, you had a balance of wisdom/self reflection, done via slowing down and fixing yourself mentally, be it yoga, or time for self regeneration, wouldn't life and society be a better place.

Remember, only a fool is a gerbal that continues to run on that mechanicial wheel going no where... and its only a matter of time something gives... the wheel or you! Personally, I would slow down and look at what the reality I have produced, and what I prefer to be living in.

Just like a computer, we overload our brains with applications, and processes, and its only a matter of time before the whole structure becomes overloaded and overheats. So, slow down, and rid yourself of pre-set unneccessary tasks.

''Have a good life in the reality you choose yourself!''

X

Remember: There is more to Humans, than meets the brain!

Harpal Sahota
25th February, 2011 @ 07:05 am PST

I am a product of the 60's, I have proven this theory over 40 years ago. I have proof; All my friends told me that I was at Woodstock and that I had a great time.

Yet my "Self" was off somewhere else. I am sure many of you undercover Hippies can relate. Dear Dr Guterstam, got any paper.

So goes the thought "Don't believe anything you think"

Capt
25th February, 2011 @ 07:52 am PST

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE - WE ARE OUR BOTHERS AND SISTERS

THE MORE WE LOOK AFTER THEM - THE MORE WE LOOK AFTER OURSELVES.

THE ATTACHED FEELING BODY MEDITATION IS NOW OBVIOUSLY THE BEST WAY TO CURE OUR OWN CONDITIONS AS WELL AS THAT OF OTHERS.

CRYSTAL CLEAR CONFIRMATION OF THE FACT THAT WE CAN MERGE WITH ANOTHER PERSON FOR A BENEFICIAL EFFECT. VERY IMPORTANT TO INVOKE GOD'S HELP SO AS NOT TO SHARE THE KARMA.



THIS TECHNOLOGY NEEDS TO BE ADDED TO THE HEALING CIRCLE SYSTEM

SEE THE SAME METHOD BELOW FOR TEACHING ONE'S BODY NEW TALENTS. BASICALLY CREATING AN AVATAR OF YOURSELF, TEACHING IT HOW TO SING, SPEAK A LANGUAGE ETC - THEN MERGING THAT AVATAR WITH YOURSELF.



and



AND, THE REALLY REALLY BIG ONE - DREAMING OR ASTRAL PROJECTION - DOING THE SAME THING. I.E. TEACHING YOUR LUCID DREAMING BODY TO FLY, THEN MERGING THE DREAMING BODY WITH THE PHYSICAL BODY, THUS TEACHING YOUR PHYSICAL BODY HOW TO FLY - THIS IS A TEACHING OF DON JUAN, A YAQUI SORCERER TO CARLOS CASTANEDA. AND HE WASN'T KIDDING.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF REPORTS ABOUT AFRICAN SHAMANS HAVING THE SAME ABILITIES.

JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY HAS HAD FLYING DREAMS WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG. WHY? WELL NOW YOU KNOW.

Mike Emery
25th February, 2011 @ 09:38 am PST

"Thus, the science tells you its the heat that you are looking at, but, what if I told you that the heat energy is greater, and distorting the energy of reality... then what would you think!"

I'd think you're peddling woo.

alcalde
25th February, 2011 @ 09:46 am PST

old news - using a world model creates expected responses which effects responses. good that there is further rigorous testing to support this theory... not world shaking though...

Omer Qadir
25th February, 2011 @ 11:45 am PST

Those are two very different studies-

they should be two different articles.

Transferring "self" and attaching a new arm are different ends of the spectrum.

Griffin
25th February, 2011 @ 12:46 pm PST

so Stan Lee had the right idea when he made DOCTOR OCTOPUS???!!!

who knew MARVEL was ahead of it's time...

Blue Lucero
26th February, 2011 @ 12:12 am PST

We have always projected ourselves onto an "other." Thus is the nature of play, worship, love, and advertising as we identify the doll, the idol, our romantic interest or product with our aspirational selves. Avatars represent another form of this self and minituarized image transference occurs daily in virtual worlds.

Pooky Amsterdam
26th February, 2011 @ 07:07 pm PST

"Im writing this in Sydney but Im really in Honolulu."

Both of me is in Pattaya, & not less than one is drinking Carlsberg!

Stuart21
1st March, 2011 @ 02:05 am PST

Great song, "How long has this been going on?" This is a new twist on a very old subject. I think if these researchers were serious about OBE they would travel to India, Tibet, or even San Francisco around 1968! Oh wait, that would require a time machine. My daughter would look for Phineas & Ferb, I just need the Doc and Marty!

seeker
12th June, 2011 @ 08:22 am PDT

@Captn, Aye, aye!

YukonJack
23rd December, 2011 @ 12:47 pm PST

Anyone who has ever experienced the painful emotional condition called displacement understands the feeling that they are standing just slightly outside of themselves. It is a very painful and frightening state of mind. The person so effected often feels that not only their person but their sanity as well is being moved out of their body. It is a torturous condition.

I wonder if the person knew that it was a deliberately induced experience under controlled conditions if the pain and fear would be removed from that experience.

Also at a certain point if the imaginary limb is switched off would phantom pain issues occur as is seen in some amputees.

Jim Sadler
20th January, 2012 @ 09:12 am PST
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