Effect of Visual Information on Active Touch During Mirror Visual Feedback

Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Oct 18;12:424. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00424. eCollection 2018.


Several studies have demonstrated that observation of a dummy or mirror-reflected hand being stroked or moving at the same time as the hidden hand evokes a feeling that the dummy hand is one's own, such as the rubber hand illusion (RHI) and mirror visual feedback (MVF). Under these conditions, participants also report sensing the tactile stimulation applied to the fake hands, suggesting that tactile perception is modulated by visual information during the RHI and MVF. Previous studies have utilized passive stimulation conditions; however, active touch is more common in real-world settings. Therefore, we investigated whether active touch is also modulated by visual information during an MVF scenario. Twenty-three participants (13 men and 10 women; mean age ± SD: 21.6 ± 2.0 years) were required to touch a polyurethane pad with both hands synchronously, and estimate the hardness of the pad while observing the mirror reflection. When participants observed the mirror reflection of the other hand pushing a softer or harder pad, perceived hardness estimates were significantly biased toward softer or harder, respectively, even though the physical hardness of the pad remained constant. Furthermore, perceived hardness exhibited a strong correlation with finger displacement of the mirrored, but not hidden, hand. The modulatory effects on perceived hardness diminished when participants touched the pad with both hands asynchronously or with their eyes closed. Moreover, participants experienced ownership of the mirrored hand when they touched the pad with both hands synchronously but not asynchronously. These results indicate that hardness estimates were modulated by observation of the mirrored hand during synchronous touch conditions. The present study demonstrates that, similar to passive touch, active touch is also modulated by visual input.

Keywords: active touch; hand ownership; hardness perception; magnitude estimation; mirror visual feedback; multimodal integration; visual capture.