The experience of the self as an embodied agent in the world is an essential aspect of human consciousness. This experience arises from the feeling of control over one's bodily actions, termed the Sense of Agency, and the feeling that the body belongs to the self, Body Ownership. Despite longstanding philosophical and scientific interest in the relationship between the body and brain, the neural systems involved in Body Ownership and Sense of Agency, and especially their interactions, are not yet understood. In this preregistered study using the Moving Rubber Hand Illusion inside an MR-scanner, we aimed to uncover the relationship between Body Ownership and Sense of Agency in the human brain. Importantly, by using both visuomotor and visuotactile stimulations and measuring online trial-by-trial fluctuations in the illusion magnitude, we were able to disentangle brain systems related to objective sensory stimulation and subjective judgments of the bodily-self. Our results indicate that at both the behavioral and neural levels, Body Ownership and Sense of Agency are strongly interrelated. Multisensory regions in the occipital and fronto-parietal regions encoded convergence of sensory stimulation conditions. The subjective judgments of the bodily-self were related to BOLD fluctuations in the Somatosensory cortex and in regions not activated by the sensory conditions, such as the insular cortex and precuneus. Our results highlight the convergence of multisensory processing in specific neural systems for both Body Ownership and Sense of Agency with partially dissociable regions for subjective judgments in regions of the Default Mode Network.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the MRI team at the Weizmann institute for science and Prof. Rafi Malach for their help with this study. This study was supported by an Israeli Science Foundation personal grant ( ISF 1169/17 ) to R.S.
© 2023 The Author(s)
- Body ownership
- Multisensory integration
- Neural correlates of self
- Rubber hand illusion
- Sense of agency