July 9, 2012
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation (NTT, CEO: Hiroo Unoura, Tokyo) has conducted the first ever experiments clarifying the relationship between hearing and the perception of body form, such as the length of an arm, in cooperation with Royal Holloway, University of London in the U.K. and the University of Graz in Austria.
This groundbreaking discovery in neuroscience research represents a significant advance in basic research on the relationship between audition and the human body, and holds promise for applications in medical and other fields.
This result appeared in the scientific magazine, “Current Biology” on July, 10.
At NTT Communication Science Laboratories (NTT Labs), we use approaches such as information science, psychophysics, and neuroscience to investigate mechanisms underlying our perception, emotion, and motion, for understanding how environmental and social information is processed in human body and brain. The research findings are expected to serve as fundamentals of future information technologies for heart-to-heart communication. In our research, how the sense of the body is formed and maintained is one of the essential questions in understanding interactions between human and environment.
In this research, based on our rich legacy of research done over many years at NTT Labs, we have discovered a new illusion in which people will perceive that his/her arm has stretched if he/she taps the floor and hear the sound produced as originating from farther away than the hand actually is.
Earlier, it has been assumed that the sense of body form is achieved through integration of somatic sense and vision. The role of audition has been largely ignored. This discovery shows for the first time, that audition can influence perception of the shape of his/her own body, which makes it a groundbreaking first step in unraveling the relationship between hearing and the human body.
NTT Communication Science Laboratories
16 males and females aged 20 to 35 years old.
These results suggest that the brain adapted to the sound coming from twice the distance of the actual tapping, resulting in the illusion that the length of the arm is felt longer than it actually is.
We will further elucidate the mechanisms how the auditory and somatosensory information is integrated to construct the sense of the body, and explore potential applications in medical fields such as rehabilitation. For example, we will study applications such as a system that uses sound to support rehabilitation of subjects having difficulty perceiving or moving their bodies accurately.
Science and Core Technology Laboratory Group, PR Dept.
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