, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 685-701

Reaching with alien limbs: Visual exposure to prosthetic hands in a mirror biases proprioception without accompanying illusions of ownership


In five experiments, we investigated the effects of visual exposure to a real hand, a rubber hand, or a wooden block on reaching movements made with the unseen left hand behind a parasagittal mirror. Participants reached from one of four starting positions, corresponding to four levels of conflict between the proprioceptively and visually specified positions of the reaching hand. Reaching movements were affected most by exposure to the real hand, intermediately by the rubber hand, and least of all by the wooden block. When the posture and/or movement of the visible hand was incompatible with that of the reaching hand, the effect on reaching was reduced. A “rubber hand illusion” questionnaire revealed that illusions of ownership of the rubber hand were not strongly correlated with reaching performance. This research suggests that proprioception is recalibrated following visual exposure to prosthetic hands and that this recalibration is independent of the rubber hand illusion.

N.P.H. was supported by a Wellcome Prize Studentship (065696/Z/01/A) from the Wellcome Trust and a Science Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.