Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering


Washkewicz College of Engineering

First Advisor

Marasco, Paul

Subject Headings

Biomedical Engineering


The rubber hand illusion (RHI) is a visual-tactile perceptual illusion commonly used to study body ownership. In this paradigm, a rubber hand is positioned in front of a participant, and the person’s real hand is hidden from sight behind a barrier. When the real hand and the rubber hand are stroked synchronously, individuals perceive the rubber hand as if it were their own; it becomes “embodied.” This illusory experience of body ownership is associated with multimodal integration of touch and vision. From these visual-tactile-cognitive mechanisms, we establish that our hands belong to us when what we see matches what we feel. Recently, studies have established a correlation between the induction of the RHI and temperature changes at the skin surface. Interestingly, when the brain perceives its real limb to be “disembodied” during the cognitive illusion, the temperature of that real limb drops. The central hypothesis for the proposed study is that cognitive limb embodiment directly affects blood flow patterns; blood flow in a specific limb can be disrupted by altering the sense of the limb’s embodiment. Our rationale is that understanding the mechanisms underlying thermal-vascular regulation in healthy and diseased populations is clinically significant because blood flow can be used as a physiological marker of cognitive limb embodiment and may also be particularly important in identifying and understanding disease states. Physiological correlates of embodiment, such as temperature and blood flow changes, may have significant potential for quantitatively assessing various diseases. The first aim was to develop a modified ultrasound method to measure blood flow under the conditions of the RHI. In addition, the Doppler waveform indices were examined as physiological markers for cognitive embodiment. The second aim was to investigate the link between temperature changes and blood flow during cognitive limb embodiment. Taken together, this work seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the effects of cognitive limb embodiment on vascular physiological response.