Sleeping on the rubber-hand illusion: memory reactivation during sleep facilitates multisensory recalibration

Motoyasu Honma, John Plass, David Brang, Susan M. Florczak, Marcia F Grabowecky, Ken Paller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Plasticity is essential in body perception so that physical changes in the body can be accommodated and assimilated. Multisensory integration of visual, auditory, tactile, and proprioceptive signals contributes both to conscious perception of the body’s current state and to associated learning. However, much is unknown about how novel information is assimilated into body perception networks in the brain. Sleep-based consolidation can facilitate various types of learning via the reactivation of networks involved in prior encoding or through synaptic down-scaling. Sleep may likewise contribute to perceptual learning of bodily information by providing an optimal time for multisensory recalibration. Here we used methods for targeted memory reactivation (TMR) during slow-wave sleep (SWS) to examine the influence of sleep-based reactivation of experimentally induced alterations in body perception. The rubber-hand illusion (RHI) was induced with concomitant auditory stimulation in 24 healthy participants on 3 consecutive days. While each participant was sleeping in his or her own bed during intervening nights, electrophysiological detection of SWS prompted covert stimulation with either the sound heard during illusion induction, a counterbalanced novel sound, or neither. TMR systematically enhanced spatial recalibration of perceived hand location during subsequent inductions of the RHI. Illusory feelings of body ownership for the rubber hand also differed as a function of whether the novel or RHI-associated sound was played on the prior night. This evidence for sleep-based modulation of a body-perception illusion demonstrates that the recalibration of multisensory signals can be altered overnight to modify new learning of bodily representations. Sleep-based memory processing may thus constitute a fundamental component of body-image plasticity.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeuroscience of Consciousness
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

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