Visual distortion of a limb modulates the pain and swelling evoked by movement

G. Lorimer Moseley (1,2), Timothy J. Parsons (1) and Charles Spence (3)
1 Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, University of Oxford, UK
2 Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney, Australia
3 Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, UK


The feeling that our body is ours, and is constantly there, is a fundamental aspect of self-awareness. Although it is often taken for granted, our physical self-awareness, or body image, is disrupted in many clinical conditions. One common disturbance of body image, in which one limb feels bigger than it really is, can also be induced in healthy volunteers by using local anaesthesia or cutaneous stimulation. Here we report that, in patients with chronic hand pain, magnifying their view of their own limb during movement significantly increases the pain and swelling evoked by movement. By contrast, minifying their view of the limb significantly decreases the pain and swelling evoked by movement. These results show a top-down effect of body image on body tissues, thus demonstrating that the link between body image and the tissues is bi-directional.

See the full article at Current Biology. 18,22 R1047-1048.


  1. The minifying data are not displayed on the slide. I did find it in the original article. Amazing stuff.

    admin Reply:

    We’ve added the minifying data – thanks for pointing it out!