AbstractBackground and aimsThreatening a perceptually embodied rubber hand with noxious stimuli has been shown to generate levels of anxiety similar to that experienced when a real hand is threatened. The aim of this study was to investigate skin conductance response, self-reported anxiety and the incidence, type and location of sensations when a perceptually embodied rubber hand was exposed to threatening and non-threatening stimuli.MethodsA repeated measures cross-over design was used whereby 20 participants (⊕18 years, 14 females) received a threatening (syringe needle) and non-threatening (soft brush) stimulus to a perceptually embodied rubber hand. Perceptual embodiment was achieved using a soft brush to synchronously stroke the participant’s real hand (out of view) and a rubber hand (in view). Then the investigator approached the rubber hand with a syringe needle (threat) or soft brush (non-threat).ResultsRepeated measures ANOVA found that approaching the perceptually embodied rubber hand with either stimulus produced statistically significant reductions in the rated intensity of response to the following questions (p < 0.01): ‘How strongly does it feel like the rubber hand is yours?’; ‘How strongly does it feel like the rubber hand is part of your body?’; and ‘How strongly does it feel you can move the rubber hand?’. However, there were no statistically significant differences in scores between needle and brush stimuli. Repeated measures ANOVA on skin conductance response found statistically significant effects for experimental Events (baseline; stroking; perceptual embodiment; stimuli approaching rubber hand; stimuli touching rubber hand; p <0.001) but not for Condition (needle versus brush p = 0.964) or experimental Event × Condition interaction (p = 0.160). Ten of the 20 participants (50%) reported that they experienced a sensation arising from the rubber hand when the rubber hand was approached and touched by either the needle and/or brush but these sensations lacked precision in location, timing, and nature.Conclusion and implicationsOur preliminary findings suggest that the increase in arousal in response to stimuli entering the peripersonal space may not be selective for threat. There was tentative evidence that more intense sensations were experienced when a perceptually embodied rubber hand was approached by a threatening stimulus. Our findings provide initial insights and should serve as a catalyst for further research.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Apr 1, 2016
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