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Embodying Avatars with Self-Dis/Similar and Un/Attractive Bodies Affects Body Image Distortion In Anorexia Nervosa

41 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2023 Publication Status: Under Review

See all articles by Luca Provenzano

Luca Provenzano

Italian Institute of Technology

Sofia Ciccarone

Sapienza University of Rome

Giuseppina Porciello

Santa Lucia Foundation

Manuel Petrucci

Guglielmo Marconi University

Barbara Cozzani

Azienda Sanitaria Locale Salerno

Armando Cotugno

Azienda Sanitaria Locale Salerno

Ilaria Bufalari

Sapienza University of Rome

Abstract

Body image distortion (BID) is a crucial aspect of anorexia nervosa (AN), leading to body overestimation, dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem, and plays a role in the onset, maintenance, and relapse of AN pathology.In this study, we utilized Interpersonal Multisensory Stimulation (IMS) in immersive virtual reality to induce the illusion of owning an under and normal weight avatar's body (embodiment) in AN patients and healthy controls. We assessed the embodiment effect on perceived self-body dimensions through a Body Perception Task (estimations of hips’ width) and a Body Schema Task (estimations on the minimum aperture width of a virtual door in order to pass through it).AN patients showed changes in body schema estimations after embodying the normal weight avatar, highlighting increased bodily self-plasticity in AN. Notably, AN individuals perceived the normal weight avatar as most similar to their real body but also as less attractive and more repulsive, correlating with BID severity. Also, at an explicit level all participants reported feeling thinner than usual after embodying the underweight avatar.  Overall, our findings suggest that BID in AN engages multiple sensory channels and components, offering potential targets for innovative non-invasive treatments aimed at modifying flexible aspects of body representation.

Note:

Funding Information: I.B. was funded by Sapienza University of Rome (PROGETTI RICERCA ATENEO SAPIENZA n. RP120172B7BB61EA) and Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca (PRIN n. 2022MWZYKT). G.P. was funded by Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca (PRIN n. P2022TPX8E).

Conflict of Interests: The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Ethical Approval: The study was approved by the Ethical Committees of the IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome (Prot. CEIPROG.535) and was conducted in accordance with the Ethical standards of the 2013 Declaration of Helsinki. All participants read and signed the informed consent form. Parental consent was required for participants under the age of 18 (N = 5). Participants received monetary compensation for taking part in the study.

Keywords: Anorexia Nervosa, Body Image Distortion, body schema, Bodily Self-Plasticity, Embodiment Illusion, Immersive Virtual Reality.

Suggested Citation

Provenzano, Luca and Ciccarone, Sofia and Porciello, Giuseppina and Petrucci, Manuel and Cozzani, Barbara and Cotugno, Armando and Bufalari, Ilaria, Embodying Avatars with Self-Dis/Similar and Un/Attractive Bodies Affects Body Image Distortion In Anorexia Nervosa. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4609028 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4609028

Luca Provenzano (Contact Author)

Italian Institute of Technology ( email )

Sofia Ciccarone

Sapienza University of Rome ( email )

Giuseppina Porciello

Santa Lucia Foundation ( email )

Manuel Petrucci

Guglielmo Marconi University ( email )

Rome
Italy

Barbara Cozzani

Azienda Sanitaria Locale Salerno ( email )

Armando Cotugno

Azienda Sanitaria Locale Salerno ( email )

Ilaria Bufalari

Sapienza University of Rome ( email )

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