The anatomo-clinical picture of the pathological embodiment over someone else's body part after stroke

Lorenzo Pia, Carlotta Fossataro, Dalila Burin, Valentina Bruno, Lucia Spinazzola, Patrizia Gindri, Katerina Fotopoulou, Anna Berti, Francesca Garbarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, a monothematic delusion of body ownership due to brain damage (i.e., the embodiment of someone else's body part within the patient's sensorimotor system) has been extensively investigated. Here we aimed at defining in-depth the clinical features and the neural correlates of the delusion. Ninety-six stroke patients in a sub-acute or chronic phase of the illness were assessed with a full ad-hoc protocol to evaluate the embodiment of an alien arm under different conditions. A sub-group of seventy-five hemiplegic patients was also evaluated for the embodiment of the movements of the alien arm. Fifty-five patients were studied to identify the neural bases of the delusion by means of voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping approach. Our results show that, in forty percent of the whole sample, simply viewing the alien arm triggered the delusion, but only if it was a real human arm and that was seen from a 1st person perspective in an anatomically-correct position. In the hemiplegic sub-group, the presence of the embodiment of the alien arm was always accompanied by the embodiment of its passive and active movements. Furthermore, the delusion was significantly associated to primary proprioceptive deficits and to damages of the corona radiata and the superior longitudinal fasciculus. To conclude, we show that the pathological embodiment of an alien arm is well-characterized by recurrent and specific features and might be explained as a disconnection deficit, mainly involving white matter tracts. The proposed exhaustive protocol can be successfully employed to assess stroke-induced disorders of body awareness, unveiling even their more undetectable or covert clinical forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-219
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sep


  • Bodily self
  • Body ownership
  • Brain-damaged patients
  • Delusional body ownership
  • Sense of agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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