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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jul 2023 - 7 Jul 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies, Medical Devices, Neurobiology

Inflammation/Inflammatory, Musculoskeletal Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jul 03

Sci Rep




Virtual embodiment in fibromyalgia.


Świdrak J, Arias A, de la Calle ER, Collado Cruz A, Sanchez-Vives MV


Chronic pain alters the experience of owning a body and leads to disturbances in bodily perception. We tested whether women with fibromyalgia (FM) are receptive to bodily illusions of owning a visible and progressively invisible body in immersive virtual reality (VR), and what modulates this experience. Twenty patients participated in two experimental sessions; each session included two conditions in a counterbalanced order. We found that patients with FM could indeed experience virtual embodiment. Sentiment analysis revealed significantly more positive reactions to the progressively invisible body, yet twice as many patients declared they preferred the illusion of a visible virtual body. A linear mixed model revealed that the strength of embodiment was positively associated with body perception disturbances and negatively associated with FM symptoms intensity. No effect of pain during the VR experience nor interoception awareness on embodiment was found. The results indicated that patients with FM are receptive to virtual bodily illusions and that the impact of the embodiment depends on affective reactions, the level of cognitive body distortions, and the intensity of symptoms. Importantly, there is a large variation among patients which should be considered in future VR-based interventions.