New research from Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum explores tactile gating and the “phantom touch illusion.” Traditionally, tactile gating, the suppression of self-induced sensations, was linked to tactile receptors’ activation. However, this study suggests that body schema also influences tactile gating. Published in Scientific Reports, the research investigates how tactile gating works without a sensory signal, inspired by VR users’ reports of “phantom touch illusion.”
Participants in a VR environment, unable to see their forearms, used virtual sticks to simulate touch on their virtual hands. During control tests without VR, they used laser pointers. Results showed 89% of VR participants felt sensations corresponding to the virtual stick’s position, even before being prompted. Notably, 50% felt tingling during VR, compared to 13% with the laser on and 9% with it off. While visual cues seemed primary, reports on non-visible body parts suggest other sensory factors may contribute.