The Hand That Wasn’t There: Incredible Research Reveals Bizarre Ways In Which The Brain Defines The “Self”

by • November 23, 2011 • Neuroscience, ScienceComments (0)1696

Olaf Blanke is Director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience in Switzerland and a consultant neurologist in the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Geneva. Blanke pioneered the neuroscientific study of human self-consciousness and subjectivity by using a broad range of methods such as the neuropsychology and electrophysiology of self-consciousness in neurological disease as well as brain imaging in healthy subjects. His main interest at present is the development of a data-driven neuroscientific theory of self-consciousness and subjectivity. Another main line of research concerns balance and body perception, and their application to engineering-based technologies such as virtual reality, robotics, and neuro-rehabilitation.

Blanke recently gave a fascinating presentation at Swissnex San Francisco, an ongoing forum for exchange of knowledge and ideas in science, education, art, and innovation.  In the “rubber hand” experiment he presents, we are shown one bizarre way in which the brain defines the “self” (I won’t explain anything further because it’s something you have to see for yourself).  I had seen another video of this experiment last year, but let’s just say this new version of the rubber hand experiement takes things to a more — uhhhhm — “dramatic” level.  To watch the video click on the red link below.

As Blanke’s research shows us, the feeling of being in, and owning, your own body is a fundamental human experience and tightly linked to our subjective, first person perspective of the world. But where does it originate and how does it come to be? How do painters and self-portrait artists incorporate the self into their work—and why?  In my opinion, it’s one of the most exciting fields of research in all of science, and continues to prove to us that the human brain is the single most complex organism in the universe.  The human brain isn’t more complex than you imagine — it’s more comlex than you can imagine.  To learn more about Olaf Blanke’s research be sure to visit the website of The Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience.  And for more great stories like this be sure to follow FORAtv on Facebook or visit their website at  For more information on Swissnex San Francisco you can visit their website by CLICKING HERE.


Source: FORAtv

Comments are closed.