Phantom Limb

Grade Level: 5 - 12 Age Range: 10 - 18 Lesson Length: 1 class
BrainU participants doing the Phantom Limb lesson

Working in pairs, students explore how vision can alter a person's experience of the world - and, in this case, bodily sensation. A student sits at a table, one arm hidden from sight, and gazes at a corresponding artificial forearm and hand on the table. The tester strokes both hands (real and artificial) simultaneously. After a minute, which hand seems like the real one?

This somatosensory illusion illustrates how our brain creates our body image and sense of self on a moment-to-moment basis from incoming sensory information. Not everyone will experience this in the same way but many will believe the artificial hand is the real one.

2015 Brain Awareness Week video 3rd Place winner Your Sixth Sense explains the concept of proprioception - our sense of ourselves and how we know where our hand is even when we can't see it. It's a fun introduction to sensory processing. Catch the references to Spiderman?

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