Have you ever had the sensation of suddenly closing your eyes only to realize afterwards that an insect was heading straight for your face? Your body reacted instinctively before you had time to think because our brains are aware of the space around us.
This phenomenon might have something to do with a personal force field that we have around us.
Neuroscientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have used a twist on the rubber hand illusion to help people actually feel this force field.
Here’s the proof:
Hard neuroscientific evidence on the phenomenon appeared in the late 1990s in animal studies when Michael Graziano of Princeton University, New Jersey, and his team recorded the brain activity of monkeys and found that some neurons fired not only when an object touched part of the body, but also when the object approached it, reports Anil Ananthaswamy for New Scientist.
Now, neuroscientist Arvid Guterstam of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has devised a clever way to help humans sense the peripersonal space around them. They used the well-known rubber hand illusion, but took it further.
The original illusion involved an inflated rubber glove, a flat piece of cardboard and two small paintbrushes. The hand is placed on the table in front of the volunteer and their real hand is concealed. When someone strokes that fake hand and real hand simultaneously, most people become convinced after a while that they feel the brush strokes on the rubber hand as if it is their own hand.
For the latest experiment, which involved 101 adults, the researchers didn’t stroke the actual rubber hand, but move the brush in midair above it, while stroking the real hand with brush strokes, reports Ananthaswamy.
Most volunteers reported feeling a “magnetic force” or “force field” between the paintbrush and the rubber hand below – as if the brush was encountering an invisible barrier. This time the volunteers also felt a sense of ownership of the rubber hand, writes, Ananthaswamy.
“We can elicit this bizarre sensation of there actually being something in mid-air between the brush and the rubber hand,” Guterstam, told New Scientist.
The sensation of a force field disappears when the brushstrokes are more than about 30-40 centimeters above the rubber hand, which seems to indicate the size of our peripersonal space.
Could there possibly be some kind of relationship between this force field that scientists have detected and the human aura that some people are able to see around people? Or are they completely different? What do you think?