Virtual Reality Body Swapping: A Tool for Modifying the Allocentric Memory of the Body

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2016 Feb;19(2):127-33. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0229. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


An increasing amount of evidence has shown that embodiment of a virtual body via visuo-tactile stimulation can lead to an altered perception of body and object size. The current study aimed to investigate whether virtual reality (VR) body swapping can be an effective tool for modifying the enduring memory of the body. The experimental sample included 21 female participants who were asked to estimate the width and circumference of different body parts before any kind of stimulation and after two types of body swapping illusions ("synchronous visuo-tactile stimulation" and "asynchronous visuo-tactile stimulation"). Findings revealed that after participants embodied a virtual body with a skinny belly (independently of the type of visuo-tactile stimulation), there was an update of the stored representation of the body: participants reported a decrease in the ratio between estimated and actual body measures for most of the body parts considered. Based on the Allocentric Lock Theory, these findings provide first evidence that VR body swapping is able to induce a change in the memory of the body. This knowledge may be potentially useful for patients suffering from eating and weight disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Perception
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*