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Title: Agency and the sense of body-ownership : psychophysical and neuroscientific investigations
Author: Tsakiris, Emmanouil
ISNI:       0000 0001 2443 3343
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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Almost every human activity involves voluntary bodily movements. As agents, we act upon the world with our body, and we experience ourselves, and the world through the same body. This fact implies that the sense of self is crucially dependent on motor and sensory signals. These signals are related to the phenomenological experience of agency and body-ownership. Agency is the sense of oneself as being the source of the action, the sense that actions are one's own. Body-ownership is the feeling that the body I inhabit is mine and always with me. The sense of ownership is present not only during voluntary actions, but also during passive movement and at rest. In contrast, only voluntary actions should produce a sense of agency. Thus, agency seems to be closely linked to the generation of efferent motor signals, and ownership to the perception of afferent sensory signals. This distinction suggests that agency and ownership should have different effects on awareness of the body. The aim of the present thesis was to investigate how efferent and afferent signals interact to generate the sense of agency and the sense of ownership. In particular, the experiments focused on four main varieties of bodily experience: time-perception, sensory-motor perception, self-recognition, and self-attribution. Overall, the results showed a consistent contribution of voluntary action to a number of different measures related to the bodily self. In particular, efference underlies the sense of agency and at the same time functions as a unifying element that structures a coherent representation of the body. At the same time, the sense of body-ownership results as an interaction between bottom-up and top-down influences: sensory inputs related to the body are integrated against a set of body-scheme representations that guarantee the functional and phenomenological coherence of bodily experience. It is suggested that the unity of bodily self-consciousness comes from action, and not from sensation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available