Caloric vestibular stimulation has no effect on perceived body size


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It has been suggested that the vestibular system not only plays a role for our sense of balance and postural control but also might modulate higher-order body representations, such as the perceived shape and size of our body. Recent findings using virtual reality (VR) to realistically manipulate the length of whole extremities of first person biometric avatars under vestibular stimulation did not support this assumption. It has been discussed that these negative findings were due to the availability of visual feedback on the subjects’ virtual arms and legs. The present study tested this hypothesis by excluding the latter information. A newly recruited group of healthy subjects had to adjust the position of blocks in 3D space of a VR scenario such that they had the feeling that they could just touch them with their left/right hand/heel. Caloric vestibular stimulation did not alter perceived size of own extremities. Findings suggest that vestibular signals do not serve to scale the internal representation of (large parts of) our body’s metric properties. This is in obvious contrast to the egocentric representation of our body midline which allows us to perceive and adjust the position of our body with respect to the surroundings. These two qualia appear to belong to different systems of body representation in humans.
caloric vestibular stimulation
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