Vol. 40 No. 1, January/February 2003
Pages 59 — 66
Psychological correlates of illusory body experiencesMalcolm MacLachlan, PhD; Deirdre Desmond, BA (Mod); Olga Horgan, BA (Mod)Trinity Psychoprosthetics Group, Department of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Abstract — Postamputation phantom sensations and phantom pain, i.e., sensation or pain in the amputated limb, can be extremely distressing for people who have had amputations. Recent research on treating phantom phenomena has used the experimental induction of illusory body experiences. Although the suggestion has been that such experiences may influence the cortical remapping that occurs after amputation, the role of psychological factors in these experimental inductions has not been addressed. We used an able-bodied sample to investigate whether a common underlying propensity exists for illusory body experiences and whether the occurrence of these experiences is associated with previously neglected psychological variables. Psychometric measures of body plasticity, somatic preoccupation, and creative imagination were significantly and differentially associated with the occurrence of illusory body experiences. Hence, these measures have potential use in identifying patients most likely to benefit from treatment interventions using the induction of illusory body experiences.Key words: body plasticity, illusory body experiences, phantom pain, somatic preoccupation.