Myeong Seop Song
Normally, humans experience an 'I' as residing in one's body and as the agent of one's actions. In other words, the self is experienced as being inside the body (self-location), as having a body (self-identification), and as being able to control the person's body (agency). Over the last decade, research in cognitive neuroscience has revealed that vestibular signals contribute to such aspects of the embodied self. On the other hand, the influences of embodiment on vestibular sensations have received scant attention. In my thesis, I highlight how changes in multisensory and sensorimotor embodiment impact vestibular sensations. For this purpose, I merged technologies from photorealistic virtual reality (VR), aviation robotics such as a drone, flight simulator, haptics with knowledge of cognitive neuroscience about embodiment and bodily self-consciousness (BSC). The multidisciplinary approaches provide new paradigms to modulate embodiment and investigate related vestibular sensations based on multisensory and sensorimotor mechanisms of BSC. Also, the approaches reveal the relationship between embodiment and vestibular sensations.
In Study 1, we have objectively shown the possibility of the duplication of the self by measuring peripersonal space (PPS). To this aim, we provided participants with real-time feedback from a drone-mounted camera that autonomously followed them while they responded to multisensory stimuli on their body and in their environment and walked forward. Our results demonstrate that this setup induces two spatially distinct PPSs in healthy participants: reaction times for visuotactile stimuli were faster around both the physical body and the observed body.
In Studies 2 & 3, we have added a photorealistic avatar and a haptic vest to a robotic flight simulator to enable and investigate personalized immersive flight experiences in healthy humans. Study 2 showed that modulations of embodiment using sensorimotor stimulation resulted in enhanced subjective flying experience, better piloting performance, and learning. In Study 3, we showed that multisensory - visual and tactile - stimulation could further increase embodiment and improve piloting performance. Furthermore, in both studies, we found a positive relationship between embodiment and flight sensations.
In Studies 4 & 5, we developed a new multisensory body scanning technology platform to induce and investigate one of the most common experiences in which the center of awareness is dissociated from the physical body: out-of-body experiences (OBEs). OBEs represent an interesting link between embodiment and vestibular sensations as they are characterized by embodiment of an elevated aerial position and perspective in space that is commonly associated with prominent sensations of floating, elevation, and flight. In this study, we have investigated how several sensorimotor and audio-visual stimulation conditions affect subjective sensations of disembodiment, floating, lightness as well as behavioral measures of self-location.
In conclusion, my work developed new paradigms to investigate embodiment, BSC, and vestibular processing. My work revealed the influence of embodiment on vestibular sensations and applied these insights between embodiment and vestibular sensations to the field of field engineering by combining state-of-the-art technologies with knowledge of BSC with broad implications for robotics, neuroscience, of immersive VR, as well as experientialEPFL