Region-of-interest analysis approaches in neuroimaging studies of body ownership: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Eur J Neurosci. 2021 Dec;54(11):7974-7988. doi: 10.1111/ejn.15534. Epub 2021 Nov 25.


How do we feel that we own our body? By manipulating the integration of multisensory signals and creating the illusory experience of owning external body parts and entire bodies, researchers have investigated the neurofunctional correlates of body ownership. Recent attempts to synthesize the neuroimaging literature of body ownership through meta-analysis have shown partly inconsistent results. A large proportion of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) findings on body ownership include analyses based on regions of interest (ROIs). This approach can produce inflated findings when results are synthesized in meta-analyses. We conducted a systematic search of the fMRI literature of ownership of body parts and entire bodies. Three activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analyses were conducted, testing the impact of including ROI-based findings. When both whole-brain and ROI-based results were included, frontal and posterior parietal multisensory areas were associated with body ownership. When only ROI-based results were included, larger areas of the frontal and posterior parietal cortices and the middle occipital gyrus were associated with body ownership. A whole-brain meta-analysis, excluding ROI-based results, found no significant convergence of activation across the brain. These findings highlight the difficulty of quantitatively synthesizing a neuroimaging field where a large part of the literature is based on findings from ROI-based analyses. We discuss these findings in the light of current practices within this field of research and highlight current problems of meta-analytic approaches of body ownership. We recommend the sharing of unthresholded data as a means to facilitate future meta-analyses of the neuroimaging literature of body ownership.

Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; fMRI; multisensory integration; ownership; region of interest.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging*
  • Ownership*