Affective touch modulates the rubber hand illusion

H. van Stralen, M. van Zandvoort, S.S. Hoppenbrouwers, L. Vissers, L.J. Kapelle, H.C. Dijkerman

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Humans experience touch as pleasant when this occurs with a certain velocity (1-10cm/s). Affective, pleasant touch is thought to be mediated by a distinct neural pathway consisting of un-myelinated tactile afferents (C tactile fibers) that respond to stroking with a low velocity on the hairy skin. As pleasant touch provides additional information on bodily signals we hypothesized that, compared to regular touch, pleasant touch would have a stronger effect on body ownership as measured through induction of the rubber hand illusion (RHI). Methods: Two experiments involving the RHI were conducted. In the first experiment, the effects of stroking velocity (3. cm/s and 30. cm/s) and stroking material (soft/rough) on the RHI were tested. In the second experiment, the effect of an additional stroking velocity (0.3. cm/s) and side of stimulation (hairy and glabrous) was examined. Results: The first experiment showed that low velocity stroking in combination with a soft material was not only regarded as most pleasant but also resulted in an enhanced RHI on proprioceptive drift and temperature measurements. In the second experiment, we confirmed that stroking with a velocity of 3. cm/s resulted in a larger RHI in terms of proprioceptive drift. In addition, compared to regular touch, pleasant touch of the hairy skin resulted in a larger proprioceptive drift, while similar stroking on the glabrous side of the skin did not induce a stronger effect of RHI on proprioceptive drift. Conclusion: Our data suggest that pleasant touch modulates the body representation which is consistently reflected in a larger proprioceptive drift. Our data also suggest that C tactile fibers are likely to be involved in the modulation of body ownership. © 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-158
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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