How to trick your mind into another body!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

real life avatar
(A) A person lies down on the device. (B) What the device looks like from the perspective of the feet. (C) The places where the machine touches you.

In James Cameron’s movie Avatar, former marine Jake Sully is connected to a special machine that allows his brain to control the thoughts and movements of an alien body, called an avatar. Since Sully and the avatar are connected, he can feel everything the alien body feels. When I saw the movie, I didn’t think such technology would be possible for a hundred years. After all, the movie takes place in 2154! However, according to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), a Full Body Illusion is possible

A Full Body what? What does that phrase even mean? A Full Body Illusion is when the mind is tricked into thinking another body is their own, just like in the movie!

In the EPFL study, 22 volunteers wore 3D displays on their heads that showed an avatar from behind, similar to how video games show characters on a screen from a third-person perspective. They were also placed inside a device that physically touches their arms and legs at the same time the avatar is being touched on the screen. Now, here’s where the cool part comes in. After a short while, the volunteers couldn’t tell where their own bodies were. Instead, they felt like the avatar’s body was their very own flesh!

While I can imagine this form of brain trickery in newer video games, the researchers actually hope to use this technology to study brain disorders, as well as helping individuals who use prosthetic limbs.

Featured image courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Avatar on Facebook. Diagram image of Full Body Illusion device courtesy of Roy Salomon and Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.