Research Topic

Owning a Body + Moving a Body = Me?

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The conscious experience of the bodily self is a cornerstone of human nature, which allows us to delineate the boundaries between the surrounding environment and us.

A plethora of clinical and experimental investigations has clearly demonstrated that bodily self-consciousness draws on different ...

The conscious experience of the bodily self is a cornerstone of human nature, which allows us to delineate the boundaries between the surrounding environment and us.

A plethora of clinical and experimental investigations has clearly demonstrated that bodily self-consciousness draws on different neuro-cognitive mechanisms with distinct anatomo-functional underpinnings. Among these, the sense of body ownership (i.e., my body belongs to me), and the sense of agency (i.e., I am the author of my actions) have attracted increasing interest in recent years. The former seems to be strongly rooted in afferent sensory signals, whereas the latter appears to be rooted in efferent motor signals and/or the monitoring of their sensory consequences.

Despite the consensus that the interplay between body ownership and the sense of agency contribute to the omnipresent conscious experience of the bodily self, the character and the form of this relationship remain unclear. Though research into the mechanisms underlying ownership (e.g., bodily illusions) or on agency (e.g., intentional binding) is blooming, very few studies have aimed to investigate both these processes at the same time. Therefore, many questions remain unresolved: for example, how do the experiences of ownership and agency influence each other? What are the anatomo-functional substrates of their interplay, and how does damage to these structures affect the experience of either ownership or agency (or both) in clinical populations? What is the specific role of efferent and afferent signals, and how may these be complimented by other inputs like emotional or interoceptive cues? And going beyond the mechanisms and anatomo-functional substrates, are there rational relations between the representations underlying body ownership and agency so that ownership can be a seen as a condition on intentional action and a sense of agency?

Elucidating the complex relationship between ownership and agency is a crucial step in our understanding of bodily self-consciousness, and may help us to better understand the variety of neurological/psychiatric disorders affecting the perception of one’s own body and its movements. These insights can contribute to the development of future prosthetic devices or virtual-reality applications, which may in turn allow for new approaches in neuroscience, rehabilitative medicine, and therapeutic interventions.

For this Research Topic, we encourage articles addressing the question of the subjective experience of our own bodies. We aim to shed light on the intricate interplay between body ownership and sense of agency as a key to understanding bodily self-consciousness. We welcome papers from different theoretical points of view and papers employing different methodological approaches.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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