Temporo-Parietal Junction encodes the Embodied Self: Neuro-Robotics, fMRI, and Lesion mapping.


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Inproceedings: an article in a conference proceedings.
Temporo-Parietal Junction encodes the Embodied Self: Neuro-Robotics, fMRI, and Lesion mapping.
Title of the conference
OHBM 2010, 16th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping
Ionta S., Heydrich L., Lenggenhager B., Mouthon M., Fornari E., Chapuis D., Gassert R., Blanke O.
Barcelona, Spain, June 6-12, 2010
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Issued date
Introduction: Neuroimaging of the self focused on high-level mechanisms such as language, memory or imagery of the self. Recent evidence suggests that low-level mechanisms of multisensory and sensorimotor integration may play a fundamental role in encoding self-location and the first-person perspective (Blanke and Metzinger, 2009). Neurological patients with out-of body experiences (OBE) suffer from abnormal self-location and the first-person perspective due to a damage in the temporo-parietal junction (Blanke et al., 2004). Although self-location and the first-person perspective can be studied experimentally (Lenggenhager et al., 2009), the neural underpinnings of self-location have yet to be investigated. To investigate the brain network involved in self-location and first-person perspective we used visuo-tactile multisensory conflict, magnetic resonance (MR)-compatible robotics, and fMRI in study 1, and lesion analysis in a sample of 9 patients with OBE due to focal brain damage in study 2.
Methods: Twenty-two participants saw a video showing either a person's back or an empty room being stroked (visual stimuli) while the MR-compatible robotic device stroked their back (tactile stimulation). Direction and speed of the seen stroking could either correspond (synchronous) or not (asynchronous) to those of the seen stroking. Each run comprised the four conditions according to a 2x2 factorial design with Object (Body, No-Body) and Synchrony (Synchronous, Asynchronous) as main factors. Self-location was estimated using the mental ball dropping (MBD; Lenggenhager et al., 2009). After the fMRI session participants completed a 6-item adapted from the original questionnaire created by Botvinick and Cohen (1998) and based on questions and data obtained by Lenggenhager et al. (2007, 2009). They were also asked to complete a questionnaire to disclose the perspective they adopted during the illusion. Response times (RTs) for the MBD and fMRI data were analyzed with a 3-way mixed model ANOVA with the in-between factor Perspective (up, down) and the two with-in factors Object (body, no-body) and Stroking (synchronous, asynchronous).
Quantitative lesion analysis was performed using MRIcron (Rorden et al., 2007). We compared the distributions of brain lesions confirmed by multimodality imaging (Knowlton, 2004) in patients with OBE with those showing complex visual hallucinations involving people or faces, but without any disturbance of self-location and first person perspective. Nine patients with OBE were investigated. The control group comprised 8 patients. Structural imaging data were available for normalization and co-registration in all the patients. Normalization of each patient's lesion into the common MNI (Montreal Neurological Institute) reference space permitted simple, voxel-wise, algebraic comparisons to be made.
Results: Even if in the scanner all participants were lying on their back and were facing upwards, analysis of perspective showed that half of the participants had the impression to be looking down at the virtual human body below them, despite any cues about their body position (Down-group). The other participants had the impression to be looking up at the virtual body above them (Up-group). Analysis of Q3 ("How strong was the feeling that the body you saw was you?") indicated stronger self-identification with the virtual body during the synchronous stroking. RTs in the MBD task confirmed these subjective data (significant 3-way interaction between perspective, object and stroking).
fMRI results showed eight cortical regions where the BOLD signal was significantly different during at least one of the conditions resulting from the combination of Object and Stroking, relative to baseline: right and left temporo-parietal junction, right EBA, left middle occipito-temporal gyrus, left postcentral gyrus, right medial parietal lobe, bilateral medial occipital lobe (Fig 1). The activation patterns in right and left temporo-parietal junction and right EBA reflected changes in self-location and perspective as revealed by statistical analysis that was performed on the percentage of BOLD change with respect to the baseline.
Statistical lesion overlap comparison (using nonparametric voxel based lesion symptom mapping) with respect to the control group revealed the right temporo-parietal junction, centered at the angular gyrus (Talairach coordinates x = 54, y =-52, z = 26; p>0.05, FDR corrected).
Conclusions: The present questionnaire and behavioural results show that - despite the noisy and constraining MR environment) our participants had predictable changes in self-location, self-identification, and first-person perspective when robotic tactile stroking was applied synchronously with the robotic visual stroking. fMRI data in healthy participants and lesion data in patients with abnormal self-location and first-person perspective jointly revealed that the temporo-parietal cortex especially in the right hemisphere encodes these conscious experiences. We argue that temporo-parietal activity reflects the experience of the conscious "I" as embodied and localized within bodily space.
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16/02/2011 11:11
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20/08/2019 15:14
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