A group of researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum (Germany) has made a surprising discovery that expands our understanding of human perception. Using virtual reality as a tool, they show that it is possible to experience a tactile sensation in the body, even without actual physical contact. This phenomenon, known as ‘phantom touch’, has been reported by some users of virtual reality experiences, describing sensations ranging from pleasant to sensual or painful.
The study, published in Scientific Reports in the journal Nature, proves that this phenomenon is not just the result of the imagination of users but a real experience. 36 volunteers with virtual reality glasses participated in the experiment. Participants were instructed to explore and touch virtual objects in the environment. They were asked to touch their own virtual hand with a virtual cane.
The results revealed that most of the participants experienced sensations such as tingling, stinging, or even static electricity, even without actual physical contact. The most surprising thing about the study was that the ‘ghost touch’ persisted even when the participants had no visual contact with the virtual objects.
This suggests that human perception and body sensations do not depend only on vision but on a complex combination of sensory perceptions and the internal representation of the body. Researchers believe that this finding is not only revealing for the understanding of human perception but may also have practical applications in fields such as medicine.
The research may open up new possibilities for the exploration of neurological diseases and diseases that affect the perception of a person’s body. The group plans to collaborate with scientists at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom to further study the “phantom touch illusion” and the neural processes involved.