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That's not a real body: identifying stimulus qualities that modulate synaesthetic experiences of touch

Holle, Henning; Banissy, Michael; Wright, Thomas; Bowling, Natalie; Ward, Jamie


Dr Henning Holle
Reader in Psychology / Leader of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience group ( )

Michael Banissy

Thomas Wright

Natalie Bowling

Jamie Ward


Mirror-touch synaesthesia is a condition where observing touch to another's body induces a subjective tactile sensation on the synaesthetes body. The present study explores which characteristics of the inducing stimulus modulate the synaesthetic touch experience. Fourteen mirror-touch synaesthetes watched videos depicting a touch event while indicating (i) whether the video induced a tactile sensation, (ii) on which side of their body they felt this sensation and (iii) the intensity of the experienced sensation. Results indicate that the synaesthetes experience stronger tactile sensations when observing touch to real bodies, whereas observing touch to dummy bodies, pictures of bodies and disconnected dummy body parts elicited weaker sensations. These results suggest that mirror-touch synaesthesia is not entirely bottom-up driven, but top-down information, such as knowledge about real and dummy body parts, also modulate the intensity of the experience.


Holle, H., Banissy, M., Wright, T., Bowling, N., & Ward, J. (2011). That's not a real body: identifying stimulus qualities that modulate synaesthetic experiences of touch. Consciousness and cognition, 20(3), (720-726). doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.12.002. ISSN 1053-8100

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jan 14, 2011
Publication Date 2011-09
Journal Consciousness and cognition
Print ISSN 1053-8100
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 3
Pages 720-726
Keywords Mirror-touch Synaesthesia; Synesthesia; Simulation; Observed touch
Public URL
Publisher URL
PMID 21237676