Does the experience of ownership over a rubber hand change body size perception in anorexia nervosa patients?

Neuropsychologia. 2014 Sep;62:26-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.07.003. Epub 2014 Jul 19.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) patients show disturbances in body size experience. Here, malleability of body representation was assessed by inducing the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI). Specifically the impact of the illusion on body size estimation was investigated. Thirty AN patients and thirty healthy females participated. The RHI was induced synchronously (experimental condition) and asynchronously (control condition) Both before and after induction of the RHI participants were asked to estimate the size of their own and the rubber hand. The results showed that AN patients had a stronger experience of ownership over the rubber hand than healthy females in the experimental, but not the control condition. AN patients and HC did not differ on proprioceptive drift. Before induction of the illusion AN patients overestimated hand width. After induction of the illusion (experimental as well as control condition) AN patients no longer overestimated the width of their hand. Healthy females correctly estimated hand size both before and after induction of the RHI. In conclusion, stronger experience of ownership over the rubber hand in the AN group implies a more malleable body representation in AN patients compared to healthy females. Changed hand size estimation in the AN group appears to be unrelated to the RHI, as it occurred under both experimental and control conditions of the illusion. Alternative interpretations are discussed.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Body image; Body representation; Eating disorder; Multisensory processing; Rubber hand illusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Body Image
  • Female
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Perceptual Disorders / etiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Size Perception / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Touch / physiology
  • Young Adult