Bill Ferguson
Registered Osteopath, Cranial Osteopath, Acupuncture and Sports Injuries
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
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Special Topics -October 2011

Rubber Hand Illusion


There has been a lot of research recently based on the "rubber hand illusion". This is an experiment where a volunteer puts their hand into a box where it is out of sight. A realistic "rubber hand" is placed nearby where the volunteer can see it and then a series of touches and strokes are given to the rubber hand and the real hand simultaneously. The illusion works when the volunteer responds to the rubber hand as if it were their own hand.

Rubber hand illusion explanation
Rubber hand illusion

For example if the volunteer sees a threat to the rubber hand they react exactly as if it was a threat to their real hand and try to pull away or show signs of stress that can be measured. The question the researchers are interested to answer is "how does the body recognise itself?" So far, we know which particular parts of the brain are responsible but we don't understand how the brain can be fooled by a rubber hand, especially since the volunteer knows what is going on.

What is even stranger was reported at a scientific meeting that I attended yesterday. During some recent trials the rubber hand was given acupuncture and to the astonishment of the researchers most of the volunteers reported sensations typical of acupuncture, even those who had never experienced acupuncture before!

How can this be explained? I don't know the answer but the possibility of using this effect to help people with prosthetic limbs is exciting and I look forward to finding out more.

In the meantime if anyone can explain how this works please let me know.

Bill Ferguson
Osteopath Tenterden



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Bill Ferguson
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
2 St Benets Court
Tenterden, Kent
Tel: 01580 762754



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Last Updated: 23 October, 2011