Projecto Financiado Internacional

‘It’s a Kind of Magic’: Exploring Multisensory Modulation of the Sense of Self Through Bodily Movements and Action Observation in Depersonalisation and Psychedelic Experiences

Co-Investigador Principal
Adam Safron \ Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, USA

2022 - 2023

Grupo(s) de Investigação: GI2 - Filosofia das Ciências Naturais

Descrição do Projecto

In daily life we experience ourselves as constantly immersed in an ongoing flow of sensory signals (smells, sounds, images, etc.) arising from both inside and outside our bodies. These sensations and perceptions scaffold both (1) a sense of self, i.e. the subjective first-personal ‘I’ or ‘self’, bound to my body and distinct from the world and others (Gallagher 2000). And (2) a sense of presence, i.e. the feeling that I am immersed in a real world here and now (Seth et al. 2011). Could everyday lived experience ever be any different? What if I constantly feel self-detached, surrounded by a ‘veil’ making me feel unreal, navigating through daily life like a robot on ‘automatic pilot’ (Perkins 2021)?
Depersonalisation (DP henceforth) (Sierra & Berrios 1997) is the third most common psychological symptom reported in the general population (after anxiety and low mood) (Simeon et al. 2003). DP is typically characterised by a distressing feeling of being detached from one’s self, body and the world: “I look in the mirror and it doesn’t feel like myself I’m looking at. It’s like I’m floating, not actually experiencing the world, and slowly fading away into nothing. It’s like I’m on autopilot in somebody’s else body” (Perkins 2021 :198). DP experiences can be triggered by high stress, severe depression, traumatic life events or drug use (Simeon et al. 2003). Remarkably, despite its high prevalence and the significant distress and social isolation it triggers, the mechanisms underlying altered sense of self in DP remain poorly understood.
Our interdisciplinary project will use the ‘Magic Shoes’ innovative device, developed by one of us, to explore the multisensory modulation of the sense of self and sense of presence through bodily movements and action observation in DP. We will also explore the phenomenological markers of radical alterations of the self-experiences, as lived from a first-person perspective, in depersonalisation and psychedelic experiences. Our project’s outcomes pave the way to potential new therapeutic sensory approaches for people experiencing body-perception disturbances. For example, by making people more aware of their dynamic bodily movements in order to counterbalance the feeling of being statically ‘trapped’ and living in one’s head. Moreover, the action observation of others’ bodily movements (hearing others’ footsteps via the Magic Shoes) may help DP experiencers to increase their feelings of getting in touch with the world and others, dissolving the ‘veil’ interposed between themselves and the environment, alleviating thereby social isolation.

Instituição de Acolhimento



Templeton Charity Foundation / Duke University (SSNAP)
Financiamento atribuído: 22.000 USD