The Effect of a Virtual-Reality Full-Body Illusion on Body Representation in Obesity

J Clin Med. 2019 Aug 28;8(9):1330. doi: 10.3390/jcm8091330.


Background. The effective illusory ownership over an artificial body in modulating body representations in healthy and eating disorders population has been repeatedly reported in recent literature. In this study, we extended this research in the field of obesity: specifically, we investigated whether ownership over a virtual body with a skinny abdomen might be successfully experienced by participants affected by obesity. Methods. Fifteen participants with obesity and fifteen healthy-weight participants took part at this study in which the VR-Full-Body Illusion was adopted. The strength of illusion was investigated through the traditional Embodiment Questionnaire, while changes in bodily experience were measured through a body size estimation task. Results. Participants with obesity as well as healthy-weight participants reported to experience the illusion. About the body size estimation task, both groups reported changes only in the estimation of the abdomen's circumference after the experimental condition, in absence of any another difference. Discussion. Participants with obesity reported to experience the illusion over a skinny avatar, but the modulation of the bodily experience seems controversial. Future lines of research exploiting this technique for modulating body representations in obesity, specifically in terms of potential therapeutic use, were discussed.

Keywords: body representation; full body illusion; health; obesity; virtual reality.