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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 Smidge207 (1278042) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:34PM (#26005441) Journal

    I suppose out of body experiences are sort of like brain malfunctions. Perhaps fun if you experience one in the right state of mind (like really good weed). This might make an awesome VR game. Just 'a thought.'

    =Smidge=

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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

  • by Jabbrwokk (1015725) <grant...j...warkentin@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:56PM (#26005707) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Zerth (26112) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:31PM (#26006177)

    I'm suprised this is news. Wasn't there just recently an article about the set of nerves that fire the same when seeing someone else perform an action as doing it yourself?

    Heck, I imagine anyone who has worked with waldos/tele-operated robotics has felt a sense of transference to the mechanical portion. After using a waldo for several hours a day for a few weeks, I swear I developed a sense of touch in a device with no force feedback, but it was most likely just my sympathetic reaction to seeing the waldo come into contact.

  • 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.

  • Umm (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:06PM (#26006635)

    Why is this tagged with 'furries'?

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:47PM (#26007097)

    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, funding often goes only to selected few "strategic" areas (aka what looks good on a governmental agenda) - here in Northern Europe it is mostly environment, green energy, oil, gas, agriculture, nanotech. The "unglamorous" majority has to scrounge for the funding elsewhere and fight for the very limited amount of public funding.

    Third, if you happen to work in the field that does not promise an immediate return on investment (typical EU project grants are for ~3 years, explicitly requiring specification of what exactly will be the benefit to the industry at the end), or the field is obscure, without an immediate applicability of the results (theoretical mathematics, virtual reality, ...) you can essentially forget about getting funded from public sources unless you are an established, well known and well connected figure.

    In the light of the above, getting mannequins from a dumpster (I didn't see that in the paper, though) is not such a bad idea - perhaps the saved money could pay for an extra month of the researcher's salary.

  • 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.

  • Re:Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bersl2 (689221) on Friday December 05, 2008 @05:13PM (#26008083) Journal

    That's a good question.

    I suspect that if it can be done for one's sex, it can be done for one's "species".

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Friday December 05, 2008 @06:47PM (#26009045)

    The problem I have is that GitS does it poorly, and a lot of people see GitS without/before seeing Bladerunner/reading DADoES?. They then proclaim it to be the best, and think everything stole from it.

    I don't agree that GitS is poorly done. But I do agree that folks need some perspective before they toss around terms like "steal." Not only should they have a better idea of history, but they should readdress the concept of inspiration and the very nature of story telling. On top of that, while I agree there's similarities in the two works (if you count DADoES and Bladerunner as the same), I find that they attack the theme from fairly different directions.

    But GitS fans tend to have some serious blinders on, and, as evidenced by some of the replies to my post, are extremely defensive of the movie/movies/series/manga/etc.

    It might have something to do with the inflammatory nature of your post. :) Using terms like "trash" and other subjective declarations are likely to invoke similarly emotional responses - whether the fan base is overly defensive or not.

  • by dasheiff (261577) on Friday December 05, 2008 @07:05PM (#26009207) Homepage

    Actually as I recall Batou asks the Major if she still uses a female body so that she can wear a watch she had received before she was lost her orginal body. In 2nd gig we also see her as a child recovering and getting used to her first new body and I don't think doctors would just randomly use a different gendered body. The real question is was Batou born a male. He once barrates the major for not /upgrading/ to a /stronger/ body.

  • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Friday December 05, 2008 @08:46PM (#26010033)

    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.

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