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Robotics Science

Scientists Achieve Mental Body-Swapping 297

Posted by kdawson
from the put-yourself-in-my-place dept.
SpaceAdmiral notes the news that scientists have succeeded in convincing experiment subjects that a mannequin's body is their own, and even feeling at home in the body of someone of the opposite sex. The effect could prove useful in virtual reality applications and in robot technology. Here's the paper on PLoS ONE.
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Scientists Achieve Mental Body-Swapping

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  • Ghost in the Shell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:34PM (#26005439)
    This experiment opens an interesting possibility in the field of full body replacements, so far a topic purely in the realm of sci-fi, anime and cyberpunk. At the same time, it makes me wonder even more if the Major's original organic body may in fact have been male, with little to no adaptation discomfort after the procedure...
    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:35PM (#26005455)

      /cry

      Please don't introduce thoughts like this into my brain when talking about hot female characters... I'll never be able to look at her the same way again!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      Ghost in the Shell is trash.

      The first one is your typical hyper-complicated (to make it seem intelligent when it is in fact simply ridiculous) anime with ridiculous robots and sexy female combatants.

      It's great for action and style, but terrible for sci-fi. Anyone who says it's deep or has any meaning is either delusional, or has never seen any sci-fi ever.

      Everything after (Innocence, Stand Alone Complex, whatever else they crank out) is utter trash, on the level of SAW sequels.

      Sorry.

      • by Ultra64 (318705) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:58PM (#26005729)

        The first one is your typical hyper-complicated (to make it seem intelligent when it is in fact simply ridiculous)...

        You *could* just admit you didn't understand it rather than whining about it.

      • Anyone who says it's deep or has any meaning is either delusional, or has never seen any sci-fi ever.

        Or, they have, and have realized that far, far better than "real" sci fi are

        ...ridiculous robots and sexy female combatants.

        • If that's your goal, what makes GitS better than any other anime featuring ridiculous robots and female combatants? (Which by my estimates is at least 30% of all anime.)

          If you want sci-fi, don't watch GitS.
          If you want action / generic anime stuff pretending to be deep, go for GitS.

      • You hate Bladerunner too I guess. Just because you dislike something, and don't take from it what others do, does not make them or you right on the matter.
      • Well... yes. If you were expecting a quick action fix.
        GITS and Masamune Shirow's manga in general need to be watched/read with some concentration.
        Add to that Mamoru Oshii's direction who almost always goes of to a deep end of the psychology pool and it may seem unnecessarily complicated.

        As for trash..

        Try reading some of Shirow's manga. He would really get into particulars with every single little thing in his universe.
        That is, before he figured out he can live off the royalties and churning out a borderline

      • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Friday December 05, 2008 @06:20PM (#26008805) Homepage Journal

        Anyone who says it's deep or has any meaning is either delusional, or has never seen any sci-fi ever.

        Sorry. Sci-Fi is not limited to ponderous, arrogant prattling by over-educated shut-ins. It also includes flash, style, and simple characterization.

        GitS is as deep as anything in its media could possibly be. "A person who is not sure if she is a person but is becomes indisinguishable from another person who is not a person but wants to be."

        Hard to think of a deeper plot. If you can point to one, go ahead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jabbrwokk (1015725)
      Or how about mind-controlled battlefield terminators? Where the soldiers have their minds linked up to robots and fight from a safe, remote location? And when everyone has this technology fighting wars would be just like a really expensive video game.
    • by BountyX (1227176)
      Speaking of Ghost in the Shell and body swapping, here is a good philosophical quote from the movie

      It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information and life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system, so man is an individual only because of his intangible memoryâ¦and yet memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind. The advent of computers and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated to the consequences of computerization⦠And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you, when neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is. Time has been on my side...but by acquiring a body I am now subject to possibility of dying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Y.A.A.P. (1252040)

      At the same time, it makes me wonder even more if the Major's original organic body may in fact have been male, with little to no adaptation discomfort after the procedure...

      If you read the original manga and got the pages to fill in the abridged portions from the English version, then you wouldn't wonder about it. The Major was originally female.

      It's one of many themes about what defines our humanity amidst the cybernetic changes that the manga successfully explores (albeit circuitously in many cases) where all of the animated versions failed miserably (as in the original manga is not "hyper-complicated trash").

      The specific sequence for this is one in which the Major is en

  • Quite a letdown... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:37PM (#26005481) Journal
    Ok, I was absolutely pumped because the subject line of this story made it sound like they successfully transplanted a brain or something...

    After reading the article they were just simultaneously poking people with sticks...

    perhaps now that you have that insight you can "mentally swap" the disappointment I'm feeling.
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:39PM (#26005511)
      perhaps now that you have that insight you can "mentally swap" the disappointment I'm feeling.

      Hey, good news! You've succeeded!
    • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:45PM (#26005599)

      After reading the article they were just simultaneously poking people with sticks...

      One experiment involved using the researchers themselves. Another experiment used mannequins found in the dumpster behind a department store. They also mention using chairs and blocks of wood as test equipment. Is it just me, or does it sound like scientific research in Sweden is ridiculously underfunded?

      • Wast not, want not. The effort of getting funding for a mannequins and other stuff even if it was simple is probably still more effort then just taking one out of the dumpster. Besides they can use the money for things they really need.

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        also mention using chairs and blocks of wood as test equipment. Is it just me, or does it sound like scientific research in Sweden is ridiculously underfunded?

        Ikea is Swedish, right?

      • Didn't the Swedes already achieve this [youtube.com]?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Somebody should mod you insightful, even though you didn't intend that.

        It is pretty common for researchers to be this resourceful and scavenge test objects, lab equipment and sometimes research subjects in this way.

        First of all, the research budgets are tight and it is unbelievably difficult to get funding for anything not having a marketable product on the table already. The idea that research needs to be done *before* you can have an (ideally patentable) product is often lost to the bean counters.

        Second,

    • and even feeling at home in the body of someone of the opposite sex.

      After reading the article they were just simultaneously poking people with sticks...

      Hmmm . . . I think there might be joke in there somewhere, but I seem to be a little slow tonight.

      Or maybe I'm just not knowledgeable about the latest Fetish du Jour . . .

    • by ejdmoo (193585) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:31PM (#26006167)

      If you've ever done an experiment like this (there are smaller scale versions), they are very weird. I can't imagine a full body experience.

      Example:
      The one I have done involves sitting behind someone, eyes closed, and having your nose stroked (by a third party) while you stroke someone else's nose in front of you. After a few seconds, your brain "clicks" and you feel like you have an incredibly long nose. This is because of the feedback loop where your brain feels something on your nose and your finger simultaneously, and your mental body image just changes instantly.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by bughunter (10093)

        After a few seconds, your brain "clicks" and you feel like you have an incredibly long nose.

        Just imagine the profitability of the pr0n applications of this technology!

      • by popeye44 (929152) on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:09PM (#26006663)

        You just gave "Reach Around" a whole new meaning in my mental dictionary.

        Thanks!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by HarvardAce (771954)

        The one I have done involves sitting behind someone, eyes closed, and having your nose stroked (by a third party) while you stroke someone else's nose in front of you. After a few seconds, your brain "clicks" and you feel like you have an incredibly long nose. This is because of the feedback loop where your brain feels something on your nose and your finger simultaneously, and your mental body image just changes instantly.

        Are you sure it was a nose you were stroking?

      • by Cornflake917 (515940) on Friday December 05, 2008 @04:44PM (#26007729) Homepage

        The one I have done involves sitting behind someone, eyes closed, and having your nose stroked (by a third party) while you stroke someone else's nose in front of you. After a few seconds, your brain "clicks" and you feel like you have an incredibly long nose.

        Now I know what to do to feel like I have an incredibly long penis. But I'm not quite sure if it's worth it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mdmkolbe (944892)

        I've had my mind think an entire building was part of my body.

        The setup was that I took a nap in an awkward position so that when I woke up and looked "down" towards where I expected my body to be, I instead saw a beam that was part of the architecture. For a fraction of a second I had the sensation that that beam was part of my body.

        It was the briefest second, but it was one of the strangest things I've ever felt.

    • And now you know the difference between 'mental body-swapping' and 'physical body-swapping'.
  • by baggins2001 (697667) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:41PM (#26005541)
    I mean, how many of us guys haven't already realized that we're just lesbians trapped in male bodies.

    So I'm gay, get over it.
  • Simulation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kvezach (1199717) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:44PM (#26005575)
    Does this make anybody else think of the "sim-stims" of Neuromancer?
    • First Person Shooter (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reziac (43301) * on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:06PM (#26005829) Homepage Journal

      Nope, but it did occur to me that they've essentially reproduced the First Person Shooter -- what dedicated player hasn't "ducked" away from incoming fire, or tried to peer around the corner of the monitor when trying to see around a corner?? Same behaviour, really -- putting yourself in the place of your onscreen avatar's viewpoint to the point that you lose track of which body you actually inhabit, and react as if the avatar is real and YOU.

      • I've never played many first person shooters, but my wife thinks it's rather funny to watch me lean left or right in my chair while trying to complete a tight turn in a flight simulator. Basically, the same principle.
      • Same behaviour, really -- putting yourself in the place of your onscreen avatar's viewpoint to the point that you lose track of which body you actually inhabit, and react as if the avatar is real and YOU.

        In soviet russia, avatar in first person shooter IS YOU!

        Sorry, that was mostly uncalled for.

    • by LithiumX (717017)
      Hmmmm! Nothing like some good sim-stim virtual tree rat sex! The future is bright...
  • Not exactly like TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:45PM (#26005589) Homepage Journal

    I just glanced through the study's report, and will read in detail later (it's rather long). There was an episode of The Prisoner [wikipedia.org] where a scientist had a gizmo with funny metal hats that transferred consciousness [wikipedia.org] to another person.

    This is nothing like that.

    There was another episode that was like that. In The Schizoid Man [wikipedia.org], as Wikipedia puts it, "Number Two replaces Number Six with a duplicate to weaken the real Six's sense of identity." Not exactly like this study, but closer.

    In this real-world study, one of the tests was that the subject is stimulated exactly like the "double"; the subject's abdomen is tickled exactly like the other person's body. I suspect that hypnosis plays a part in it, even if the researchers weren't aware they were hypnotizing the subject.

    You can hypnotize someone by (IIRC) having them lay on their backs with their eyes closed, and lightly touch their forehead. Ask "do you feel that?" Do this three or four times and without touching their forehead, if you ask if you did they will still say "yes".

    "There are four lights!" -Captain Picard

  • Talk about sensational headlines. The headline builds up considerable excitement then the very first line of the article squashes it completely.

    I don't think it's a surprise that a person can be convinced to believe pretty much anything. I have a hard time believing how this research actually reveals any new insight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd (2822)

      Its actually important research where cognitive science is involved -- the precise mechanism that translates from a set of impulses entering the brain to the sense of self and awareness of both position and body isn't well understood.

      We know, sure, that the world we live in is a mental projection that our brains assemble from a lot of, frankly, very coarse and non-specific input. We mentally fill in a lot of details. Figuring out how much you have to simulate to cause perception to switch is important, as i

    • by Rayeth (1335201)
      The reddit-ization of slashdot?
  • Malkovich (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reginaldo (1412879) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:47PM (#26005615)
    Malkovich? MALKOVICH! [imdb.com]

    Do the test patients inexplicably end up at the New Jersey turnpike once the experiment has concluded?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by xbytor (215790)

      I don't know about any test, but I've ended inexplicably on the NJ turnpike more than once.

      But that was when I lived in NJ, so it's not as farfetched as it might at first sound.

  • Now that these scientists resolved the question of adaptability of the human psyche. Some must work on preserving the brain functionality over time and some other must work to develop the perfect cyborg container for it !!!!

    Finally i will be Immortal !

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      some other must work to develop the perfect cyborg container for it !!!!

      You don't have to replace the whole body, just the nonfunctional parts. There are already lots of cyborgs. My CrystaLens implant makes me a cyborg (I went from 20/400 vision to better than 20/20 in the eye with the implant), anybody with a pacemaker or an artificial hip or other joint is a cyborg.

      They're not likely to come up with replacements for most organs any time soon. So you're going to need your complete head and most of your gut

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:51PM (#26005671)

    There's an important distinction here - this is not mind copying, it's just perspective swapping. Mind copying would be if you were able to copy the bits of one mind in one bit of hardware (example: brain) to another bit of hardware (example: computer disk), then be able to have the mind run somewhere else. What we have here is perceptive swapping, where you just overlay a new perspective in place of a brain's inputs/outputs, giving the limited sensory perception of acting in another place to that brain's mind.

    It's cool that we're making new ways for people to get new perspectives, but this ain't mind swapping by a long shot.

    Ryan Fenton

    • by andrewd18 (989408)

      Mind copying would be if you were able to copy the bits of one mind in one bit of hardware (example: brain) to another bit of hardware (example: computer disk), then be able to have the mind run somewhere else.

      I'm sorry, I don't quite get that analogy. Can you phrase it in terms of automobiles?

    • by cylcyl (144755)

      Well, if both parties change perspectives and are able to control the other body's action, wouldn't it be effectively the same as mind swapping? So, we have half the equation, we just need remote control now.

  • by KumquatOfSolace (1412203) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:53PM (#26005687)
    "It did not work when a non-humanoid object -- such as a chair or large block -- was used."

    No hope for test subjects who over-identify with Weighted Companion Cube.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      No hope for test subjects who over-identify with Weighted Companion Cube.

      I apparently incinerated mine with the least hesitation ever recorded!

    • by CptNerd (455084)

      So, no one thought they were Chairface Chipendale? Disappointing, I was looking forward to seeing "CHA" on the Moon, eventually...

  • by frenchgates (531731) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:18PM (#26006003)
    On April fools day they should run only stories that would exist in a comic book world. The ones we slashdotters keep waiting for...

    "Scientist successfully places human brain in Ape"
    "Safe and inexpensive teleportation now available"
  • by Twinbee (767046) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:32PM (#26006189) Homepage
    Quote from the article:

    The researchers created the illusion of body-swapping by touching the stomach of both the mannequin and the volunteer with sticks

    What would have been far more interesting is if they achieved the same sensation without poking the participant as well. But even then, that could be be achieved with hypnosis anyway (?)
  • by denzacar (181829) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:36PM (#26006233) Journal

    Nothing mythical, mysterious or mind blowing about it.
    The humans in the test are simply percepting something they see done to another as done to themselves.
    Its not even psychological - its neurological.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#The_development_of_empathy [wikipedia.org]

    The study of the neural underpinnings of empathy has received increased interest following the target paper published by Preston and De Waal,[39] following the discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys that fire both when the creature watches another perform an action as well as when they themselves perform it.
    In their paper, they argued that 'attended perception of the object's state automatically activates neural representations, and that this activation automatically primes or generate the associated autonomic and somatic responses, unless inhibited.

    That is also why "it did not work when a non-humanoid object -- such as a chair or large block -- was used."
    You can't empathize with a block of wood.

    Unless it is in a form of a Weighted Companion Cube.

    • Nothing mysterious about it eh? Have everything about empathy already figured out do we? Even if we knew about this before, it's still a fairly strange application of a strange phenomena, in my book.

      • by denzacar (181829)

        Nothing mysterious about the effects of the so called "Mental Body-Swapping".

        As for empathy... see the Wikipedia link above.
        There are a shitload of theories, research and results about it.

        And "unknown" [merriam-webster.com] and "mysterious" [merriam-webster.com] don't mean exactly the same thing.

  • Genius short story by James Tiptree Jr(who just had to be a male)

    This is a Tiptree thread troll.

    • by Anomalyst (742352)
      You realize rthat James Tiptree Jr was actually a female? Her real name was Alice Sheldon.
      http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue22/tiptree.html [scifi.com]
      • by opencity (582224)

        Yes that was the reference. Silverberg published an article on how Tiptree had to be male. ... doh! Which didn't make sense to this pre teen sci fi fan at the time as Forever on a Hudson Bay Blanket and Girl ... Plugged In both seemed ... uh .. female. Now that I know significantly less about women I wonder what I would think.

  • scientists have succeeded in [making subjects feel] at home in the body of someone of the opposite sex.

    I've been achieving the same via PornoTube for quite some time now.

  • Prostitution just became an issue of how well the girl can mimic the actions of the pornography you're watching. Ugly prostitutes rejoiced.
  • The mind is funky! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:29PM (#26006873) Homepage

    The mind can easily be tricked.

    Phantom limb syndrome is a common problem for amputees, where pain or discomfort is felt in the limb that no longer exists.

    One of the treatments for phantom limb syndrome involves using a mirror to make reflect you existing limb in such a way that it looks like you have both limbs. The person then performs certain actions such that it appears that the limb is restored and operating. Though one of the limbs doesn't exist, your brain is still wired as if it can move the limb. Once you actually view the missing limb performing these actions, the pain goes away.

    Seems to me that this experiment isn't much different than replacing a phantom limb with a mirror.

  • by rkww (675767) on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:48PM (#26007117)

    I have beside me a book entitled Phantoms in the Brain [amazon.co.uk] (VS Ramachandran, foreword Oliver Sachs) first published in 1998, which suggests you should "have your friend stroke identical locations on both your hand and the dummy hand synchronously while you look at the dummy. Within seconds you will experience the stroking sensations as arising from the dummy hand". It goes on to describe how you can also experience touch sensations as arising from tables and chairs.

    Incidentally I'd recommend this book for anybody interested in perception; it's a readable introduction into the very strange perceptual phenomena that can be encountered by people with rare forms of brain damage, some of which give valuable insights into the way the mind works.

  • by mccoyspace (590866) on Friday December 05, 2008 @04:32PM (#26007611) Homepage
    Dr. Henrik Ehrsson sure is basing his research career around this topic. And every time he publishes a paper basically saying the same thing as the last, the press jumps all over it as the realization of some sci-fi dream. check out the google news archive [google.com]. I think the research is fine as far as it goes, but it seems very much in the neighborhood of simulator rides [wikipedia.org] and dummy head recording. [wikipedia.org]
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday December 05, 2008 @06:35PM (#26008947) Journal

    The same things have been done with mirrors, the subjects' hands and the experimenter assistant's hands. It's so simple and common that it's been used to demonstrate cognitive mapping in undergrad classes. I did so 10 years ago.

    The only new item in TFA is use of video cameras placed at eye locations and equivalent ocular presentation. In TFA they manage to do the same as has been done before, except they use a lot more of very expensive equipment. Science marches on, though not necessarily forward.

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