This workshop presents an overview of various distortions of bodily self-consciousness. The clinical conditions leading to such alterations and the experimental approaches to simulate them are introduced. Starting out from the phenomenology and neurology of phantom body parts, the concept of “phantom body” is explored. This concept helps to understand complex neuropsychiatric conditions, such as reduplications of body and self (“doppelgänger” phenomena) and varieties of out-of-body experiences. Some rare manifestations of phantom limbs are discussed and workshop attendees are given the opportunity to experience a series of bodily (tactile and haptic) illusions including a virtual-reality based body swap, i.e. the lively experience to be in another person’s body. Particular emphasis is given to an overview of clinical and experimental research in “body integrity dysphoria” (BID), the desire for limb amputation or for acquiring a marked impairment in sensory or motor functions. This workshop will allow attendees to get an in-depth understanding of the multisensory nature of bodily self-consciousness by a combined intellectual and experiential approach.
A hands-on demonstration oft the experience of „being another“ will take place on Wednesday June 26 from 17:00 to 19:00 in the exhibition area (concert hall).
Peter Brugger (chair)
Clinic of Neurology
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Institute of Psychology
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience
University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
Phantomology I: Phantom Limbs and Related Bodily Illusions (with demos)
Late Stanislaw Lem, famous science fiction writer and futurologist, has coined the term «phantomology» in his Summa Technologiae (1964). As the “science of the body in the brain”, phantomology is at the heart of any scientific exploration of bodily consciousness. This introduction provides an overview on history and recent developments of research into phantom limbs. The phantom phenomenon will be discussed in various clinical contexts; after amputation, after spinal cord injuries, in the presence of cerebral lesions, but also as experimentally induced in healthy volunteers (workshop attendees will have the opportunity to experience some bodily illusions). One chapter of phantomology is particularly useful as a lesson in philosophy of science: phantom phenomena in persons born without limbs will be discussed against the background of scientists’ proneness to either end of an error continuum, spanning from neglect to over-interpretation of an observation defying explanation by existing theories.
Phantomology II: From Phantom Limb to Phantom Body
The phenomenon of the phantom limb illustrates that single body parts can be experienced as detached from the own body. Full-blown out-of-body experiences suggest the existence of a “phantom body”, which can be experienced as spatially separated from one’s physical body. Along this continuum of bodily self-consciousness, from “out-of-limb” to “out-of-body” experiences, are phantom phenomena associated with brain damage or severe psychiatric conditions, but which can also be experienced by apparently normal persons. Patients with hemiplegia due to a cerebral lesion may deny being paralyzed (anosognosia), but claim the presence of another person in the place of their de-afferented body half (somatoparaphrenia). In the “feeling of a presence” this other person is felt nearby, as vividly as a phantom limb and never visualized. It is rarely recognized as a mislocalized own self, but when it is, it is conceived of one’s “invisible doppelgänger”. Visualized doppelgängers, finally, are described as “autoscopic phenomena”. They have not only stimulated belletristic literature, but continuously promote clinicians’ and researchers’ understanding of “phantom body” and the multisensory nature of bodily self-consciousness.
Born 1957 in Zurich, Switzerland, Peter Brugger acquired a teacher's Diploma for Elementary and High School levels before studying biology at Zurich University. Dissertation on Subjective Randomness: Implications for Neuropsychology and Parapsychology. Postdoctoral training at UCSD San Diego and University of Victoria (Canada). Currently head of Neuropsychology Unit, Neurology Department of University Hospital Zurich. Main research interests: neuropsychology of paranormal beliefs and "schizotypy"; representation of body and space (Pfizer Prize for Medical Research in 2001 for work on phantoms of congenitally missing limbs); convergence of space, time and number in the human brain, simulation of randomness by living organisms. Overarching is the interest in the overlaps between brain and culture.
The Machine to Be Another
The „Machine to Be Another“ is a collection of methods and techniques that draw from research in neuropsychology and performance art to create the illusion of embodying another real person. The work and research of BeAnotherLab, the multinational interdisciplinary group behind the project, will be presented. In particular, they will talk about the background of the project and how they apply their methods in diverse social contexts. Afterwards, pairs of participants will experience a body swap in a multisensory manner: two participants mutually exchange perspectives and coordinate their movements. Assistants facilitate the experience providing multisensory feedback. A non-verbal dialogue emerges between both participants provoking a strange experience of togetherness. The experience builds up with the help of the assistants and culminates with participants facing themselves in front of them as another.
Marte Roel is an artist and researcher from Mexico. He studied composition, music technology, philosophy of science, and cognitive systems and interactive media. He is now a PhD candidate in Cognitive Neuropsychology at the University of Zurich, where he studies the plasticity of the bodily self. Additionally, Marte has dropped out of school a few times since childhood, showing his confusion regarding institutional knowledge. He is a member of BeAnotherLab, a multinational interdisciplinary group that develops social interventions around the illusion of embodying another person. Their work has received international distinctions from Ars Electronica, Laval Virtual, the European Commission, between multiple others, having showed their work in over 25 countries in places ranging from MIT and MoMA to the streets of Bethlehem and multiple conflict areas.
Exploring a New Disease: Body Integrity Dysphoria (BID)
BID designates the suffering from a perceived discrepancy between actual and desired body configurations. It often presents itself as a long-lasting and distressing desire for the amputation or paralysis of a healthy limb. It is conceptualized as a paraphilia by some clinicians, a right-parietal syndrome by others, and is considered an Internet-induced madness by still other medical authorities. The new release of ICD-11 suggests to define BID as a “disorder of bodily distress or bodily experience” – as such the condition represents a form of bodily self-consciousness in the borderlands of psychiatry and neurology, shaped by both biological and social factors. I review structural and functional neuroimaging findings in persons with BID and present own data in a cohort of 16 men, who all desired amputation of their left leg. The available evidence suggests a breakdown at different levels of body-self integration: (i) insufficient anchoring of the left leg in the cortical representation of the body; (ii) impaired higher-order representation of the bodily self; (iii) shaping of erotic targets according to the own desired body. Together, the data illustrate the multifaced nature of bodily self-consciousness and tentatively outline how contributing factors, from neurological to social, can be mapped to the brain.
Gianluca Saetta is a PhD candidate in Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience at University Hospital of Zurich. He completed his master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and his research internship at University Milano-Bicocca investigating the neurophysiological underpinnings of complex disorders of body representation. Combining methods from behavioral neurology, psychology and artificial intelligence, his actual research interests are the multisensory and plastic mechanisms leading to the construction of the bodily self in both healthy participants and in clinical populations. A particular focus is on individuals with body integrity dysphoria, traumatic amputees with phantom sensations and persons with congenitally absent limbs.