Body Ownership of Anatomically Implausible Hands in Virtual Reality

Or Yizhar, Jonathan Giron, Mohr Wenger, Debbie Chetrit, Gilad Ostrin, Doron Friedman, Amir Amedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Manipulating sensory and motor cues can cause an illusionary perception of ownership of a fake body part. Presumably, the illusion can work as long as the false body part’s position and appearance are anatomically plausible. Here, we introduce an illusion that challenges past assumptions on body ownership. We used virtual reality to switch and mirror participants’ views of their hands. When a participant moves their physical hand, they see the incongruent virtual hand moving. The result is an anatomically implausible configuration of the fake hand. Despite the hand switch, participants reported significant body ownership sensations over the virtual hands. In the first between-group experiment, we found that the strength of body ownership over the incongruent hands was similar to that of congruent hands. Whereas, in the second within-group experiment, anatomical incongruency significantly decreased body ownership. Still, participants reported significant body ownership sensations of the switched hands. Curiously, we found that perceived levels of agency mediate the effect of anatomical congruency on body ownership. These findings offer a fresh perspective on the relationship between anatomical plausibility and assumed body ownership. We propose that goal-directed and purposeful actions can override anatomical plausibility constraints and discuss this in the context of the immersive properties of virtual reality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number713931
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - 3 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Yizhar, Giron, Wenger, Chetrit, Ostrin, Friedman and Amedi.


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n◦ 773121).

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme773121
European Research Council
Horizon 2020


    • anatomical plausibility
    • body ownership
    • body representation
    • immersive virtual reality
    • virtual reality
    • visuomotor interaction
    • volition


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