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Your body is mine

A new experiment indicates that, under the right circumstances, people feel like they have swapped bodies with someone else

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12:56pm, November 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — It sounds like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. A man enters a laboratory, dons a special headset and shakes hands with a woman sitting across from him. In a matter of seconds, he feels like he’s inside the woman’s skin, reaching out and grasping his own hand.

Strange as it sounds, neuroscientists have induced this phenomenon in a series of volunteers. People can experience the illusion that either a mannequin or another person’s body is their own body, says Valeria Petkova of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She and Karolinska colleague Henrik Ehrsson call this reaction the “body-swap illusion.”

“Our subjects experienced this illusion as being exciting and strange, and often said that they wanted to come back and try it again,” says Petkova, who reported the findings November 17 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

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