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Manipulating the Perceived Shape and Color of a Virtual Limb Can Modulate Pain Responses

Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), 08036 Barcelona, Spain
Event-Lab, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Universitat de Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
Dipartamento di Scienze Umane per la Formazione ‘Ricardo Massa’, Università degli studi Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milan, Italy
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Departament de Cognició, Desenvolupament i Psicologia de l’Educació, Facultat de Psicologia, Universitat de Barcelona, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(2), 291;
Received: 5 December 2019 / Revised: 11 January 2020 / Accepted: 18 January 2020 / Published: 21 January 2020
Changes in body representation may affect pain perception. The effect of a distorted body image, such as the telescoping effect in amputee patients, on pain perception, is unclear. This study aimed to investigate whether distorting an embodied virtual arm in virtual reality (simulating the telescoping effect in amputees) modulated pain perception and anticipatory responses to pain in healthy participants. Twenty-seven right-handed participants were immersed in virtual reality and the virtual arm was shown with three different levels of distortion with a virtual threatening stimulus either approaching or contacting the virtual hand. We evaluated pain/discomfort ratings, ownership, and skin conductance responses (SCRs) after each condition. Viewing a distorted virtual arm enhances the SCR to a threatening event with respect to viewing a normal control arm, but when viewing a reddened-distorted virtual arm, SCR was comparatively reduced in response to the threat. There was a positive relationship between the level of ownership over the distorted and reddened-distorted virtual arms with the level of pain/discomfort, but not in the normal control arm. Contact with the threatening stimulus significantly enhances SCR and pain/discomfort, while reduced SCR and pain/discomfort were seen in the simulated-contact condition. These results provide further evidence of a bi-directional link between body image and pain perception. View Full-Text
Keywords: virtual reality; pain perception; telescoped effect; amputee patients virtual reality; pain perception; telescoped effect; amputee patients
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MDPI and ACS Style

Matamala-Gomez, M.; Nierula, B.; Donegan, T.; Slater, M.; Sanchez-Vives, M.V. Manipulating the Perceived Shape and Color of a Virtual Limb Can Modulate Pain Responses. J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 291.

AMA Style

Matamala-Gomez M, Nierula B, Donegan T, Slater M, Sanchez-Vives MV. Manipulating the Perceived Shape and Color of a Virtual Limb Can Modulate Pain Responses. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9(2):291.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Matamala-Gomez, Marta, Birgit Nierula, Tony Donegan, Mel Slater, and Maria V. Sanchez-Vives. 2020. "Manipulating the Perceived Shape and Color of a Virtual Limb Can Modulate Pain Responses" Journal of Clinical Medicine 9, no. 2: 291.

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