Soft, slow stroking of the skin contributes more to a sense of body ownership than other types of touch.

Credit: Roderik van Heijst/Elsevier

Haike van Stralen at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and her colleagues tested the ease with which study participants could be deceived into feeling that a rubber hand was part of their own body. Volunteers watched the fake hand being stroked quickly or slowly by either a cosmetic brush or a rough plastic cloth, while their real hand was touched out of sight (pictured). Soft, slower stroking gave a stronger illusion that the fake hand was their own.

The authors propose that the C tactile nerve fibres, which are activated by soft stroking of limbs at around 3 centimetres per second, may modulate how the brain integrates information about the body's limbs from different senses (such as sight and touch).

Cognition 131, 147–158 (2014)