Right-hemisphere stroke can lead to the somatoparaphrenic delusion that parts of one's own body belong to someone else. To our knowledge, no previous study has experimentally assessed the sense of body part ownership in somatoparaphrenic patients when they see the body from a third-person perspective, as in a mirror. In alternating trials, we provided either direct first-person perspective vision of the arms, or indirect third-person perspective vision via a mirror in the frontal plane. We tested body ownership in these conditions in five patients with right-hemisphere lesions with left hemiplegia and neglect, including two patients with this somatoparaphrenic delusion. The somatoparaphrenic patients systematically attributed the ownership of their left plegic hands to someone else in direct view, but showed a statistically significant increase in ownership of the left hand in mirror view trials, as compared with the three control patients. Depending on the view offered (mirror or direct), judgements of ownership and disownership of the same limb could alternate within a few seconds. The patients did not particularly remark on these dramatic and repeated alterations between ownership and disownership. Conditions of direct- and mirror-view with simultaneous touch of the hand by the experimenter showed the same patterns of results as conditions without touch. This study provides the first experimental evidence that limb disownership can be altered using self-observation in a mirror, and in turn suggests dissociation between first- and third-person visual perspectives on the body. Furthermore, the fact that reinstatement of ownership by third-person perspective did not permanently abolish somatoparaphrenia suggests that the subjective sense of body ownership remained dominated by an impaired first-person representation of the body that could not be updated, nor integrated with other signals. More generally, our findings suggest that a neural network involving the perisylvian areas of the right hemisphere may be necessary for the integration of multiple representations of one's body and for a higher order re-representation of various bodily signals into a first-person sense of body ownership. We suggest that other areas, possibly including the occipital cortex, may be involved in the recognition of the body from a third-person visual perspective. We thus propose that somatoparaphrenia can be regarded as a neurogenic dissociation between the 'subjectively felt' and 'objectively seen' body. This recalls the developmental finding that young infants cannot link their 'felt body' with the view of themselves in a mirror.
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|