The rubber hand illusion and its application to clinical neuroscience


      The rubber hand illusion (RHI) is a perceptual experience which often occurs when an administered tactile stimulation of a person’s real hand hidden from view, occurs synchronously with a corresponding visual stimulation of an observed rubber hand placed in full vision of the person in a position corresponding to where their real hand might normally be. The perceptual illusion is that the person feels a sense of “ownership” of the rubber hand which they are looking at. Most studies have focused on the underlying neural properties of the illusion and the experimental manipulations that lead to it. The illusion could also be used for exploring the sense of limb and prosthetic ownership for people after amputation. Cortical electrodes such as those used in sensorimotor stimulation surgery for pain may provide an opportunity to further understand the cortical representation of the illusion and possibly provide an opportunity to modulate the individual’s sense of body ownership. Thus, the RHI might also be a critical tool for development of neurorehabilitative interventions that will be of great interest to the neurosurgical and rehabilitation communities.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Clinical Neuroscience
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Botvinick M.
        • Cohen J.
        Rubber hands “feel” touch that eyes see.
        Nature. 1998; 391: 756
        • Costantini M.
        • Haggard P.
        The rubber hand illusion: sensitivity and reference frame for body ownership.
        Conscious Cogn. 2007; 16: 229-240
        • Ehrsson H.H.
        • Holmes N.P.
        • Passingham R.E.
        Touching a rubber hand: feeling of body ownership is associated with activity in multisensory brain areas.
        J Neurosci. 2005; 25: 10564-10573
        • Lloyd D.M.
        Spatial limits on referred touch to an alien limb may reflect boundaries of visuo-tactile peripersonal space surrounding the hand.
        Brain Cogn. 2007; 64: 104-109
        • Tsakiris M.
        • Prabhu G.
        • Haggard P.
        Having a body versus moving your body: how agency structures body ownership.
        Conscious Cogn. 2006; 15: 423-432
        • Armel K.C.
        • Ramachandran V.S.
        Projecting sensations to external objects: evidence from skin conductance response.
        Proc Biol Sci. 2003; 270: 1499-1506
        • Shimada S.
        • Fukuda K.
        • Hiraki K.
        Rubber hand illusion under delayed visual feedback.
        PLoS ONE. 2009; 4: e6185
        • Tsakiris M.
        • Haggard P.
        The rubber hand illusion revisited: visuotactile integration and self-attribution.
        J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2005; 31: 80-91
        • Schutz-Bosbach S.
        • Tausche P.
        • Weiss C.
        Roughness perception during the rubber hand illusion.
        Brain Cogn. 2009; 70: 136-144
        • Haans A.
        • Ijsselsteijn W.A.
        • de Kort Y.A.
        The effect of similarities in skin texture and hand shape on perceived ownership of a fake limb.
        Body Image. 2008; 5: 389-394
        • Moseley G.L.
        • Olthof N.
        • Venema A.
        • et al.
        Psychologically induced cooling of a specific body part caused by the illusory ownership of an artificial counterpart.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2008; 105: 13169-13173
        • Farne A.
        • Pavani F.
        • Meneghello F.
        • et al.
        Left tactile extinction following visual stimulation of a rubber hand.
        Brain. 2000; 123: 2350-2360
        • Makin T.R.
        • Holmes N.P.
        • Ehrsson H.H.
        On the other hand: dummy hands and peripersonal space.
        Behav Brain Res. 2008; 191: 1-10
        • Longo M.R.
        • Schuur F.
        • Kammers M.P.
        • et al.
        What is embodiment? A psychometric approach.
        Cognition. 2008; 107: 978-998
        • Botvinick M.
        Neuroscience. Probing the neural basis of body ownership.
        Science. 2004; 305: 782-783
        • Ehrsson H.H.
        • Spence C.
        • Passingham R.E.
        That’s my hand! Activity in premotor cortex reflects feeling of ownership of a limb.
        Science. 2004; 305: 875-877
        • Ehrsson H.H.
        • Wiech K.
        • Weiskopf N.
        • et al.
        Threatening a rubber hand that you feel is yours elicits a cortical anxiety response.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007; 104: 9828-9833
        • Wager T.D.
        • Rilling J.K.
        • Smith E.E.
        • et al.
        Placebo-induced changes in FMRI in the anticipation and experience of pain.
        Science. 2004; 303: 1162-1167
        • Lloyd D.
        • Morrison I.
        • Roberts N.
        Role for human posterior parietal cortex in visual processing of aversive objects in peripersonal space.
        J Neurophysiol. 2006; 95: 205-214
        • Tsakiris M.
        • Hesse M.D.
        • Boy C.
        • et al.
        Neural signatures of body ownership: a sensory network for bodily self-consciousness.
        Cereb Cortex. 2007; 17: 2235-2244
        • Kanayama N.
        • Sato A.
        • Ohira H.
        Crossmodal effect with rubber hand illusion and gamma-band activity.
        Psychophysiology. 2007; 44: 392-402
        • Press C.
        • Heyes C.
        • Haggard P.
        • et al.
        Visuotactile learning and body representation: an ERP study with rubber hands and rubber objects.
        J Cogn Neurosci. 2008; 20: 312-323
        • Kanayama N.
        • Sato A.
        • Ohira H.
        The role of gamma band oscillations and synchrony on rubber hand illusion and crossmodal integration.
        Brain Cogn. 2009; 69: 19-29
        • Schaefer M.
        • Noennig N.
        • Heinze H.J.
        • et al.
        Fooling your feelings: artificially induced referred sensations are linked to a modulation of the primary somatosensory cortex.
        Neuroimage. 2006; 29: 67-73
        • Kammers M.P.
        • Verhagen L.
        • Dijkerman H.C.
        • et al.
        Is this hand for real? Attenuation of the rubber hand illusion by transcranial magnetic stimulation over the inferior parietal lobule.
        J Cogn Neurosci. 2009; 21: 1311-1320
        • Graziano M.S.
        • Cooke D.F.
        • Taylor C.S.
        Coding the location of the arm by sight.
        Science. 2000; 290: 1782-1786
        • Peled A.
        • Ritsner M.
        • Hirschmann S.
        • et al.
        Touch feel illusion in schizophrenic patients.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2000; 48: 1105-1108
        • Peled A.
        • Pressman A.
        • Geva A.B.
        • et al.
        Somatosensory evoked potentials during a rubber-hand illusion in schizophrenia.
        Schizophr Res. 2003; 64: 157-163
        • Mussap A.J.
        • Salton N.
        A “rubber-hand” illusion reveals a relationship between perceptual body image and unhealthy body change.
        J Health Psychol. 2006; 11: 627-639
        • Ehrsson H.H.
        • Rosen B.
        • Stockselius A.
        • et al.
        Upper limb amputees can be induced to experience a rubber hand as their own.
        Brain. 2008; 131: 3443-3452
        • Edin B.B.
        • Ascari L.
        • Beccai L.
        • et al.
        Bio-inspired sensorization of a biomechatronic robot hand for the grasp-and-lift task.
        Brain Res Bull. 2008; 75: 785-795
        • Mulvey M.R.
        • Fawkner H.J.
        • Radford H.
        • et al.
        The use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to aid perceptual embodiment of prosthetic limbs.
        Med Hypotheses. 2009; 72: 140-142
        • Ramachandran V.S.
        • Altschuler E.L.
        The use of visual feedback, in particular mirror visual feedback, in restoring brain function.
        Brain. 2009; 132: 1693-1710
        • Tsubokawa T.
        • Katayama Y.
        • Yamamoto T.
        • et al.
        Chronic motor cortex stimulation for the treatment of central pain.
        Acta Neurochir. 1991; 52: 137-139
        • Lefaucheur J.P.
        • Drouot X.
        • Cunin P.
        • et al.
        Motor cortex stimulation for the treatment of refractory peripheral neuropathic pain.
        Brain. 2009; 132: 1463-1471
        • Garcia-Larrea L.
        • Peyron R.
        Motor cortex stimulation for neuropathic pain: from phenomenology to mechanisms.
        Neuroimage. 2007; 37: S71-79
        • Velasco F.
        • Arguelles C.
        • Carrillo-Ruiz J.D.
        • et al.
        Efficacy of motor cortex stimulation in the treatment of neuropathic pain: a randomized double-blind trial.
        J Neurosurg. 2008; 108: 698-706
        • Fontaine D.
        • Hamani C.
        • Lozano A.
        Efficacy and safety of motor cortex stimulation for chronic neuropathic pain: critical review of the literature.
        J Neurosurg. 2009; 110: 251-256