Thought consciousness and source monitoring depend on robotically controlled sensorimotor conflicts and illusory states

Andrea Serino, Polona Pozeg, Fosco Bernasconi, Marco Solcà, Masayuki Hara, Pierre Progin, Giedre Stripeikyte, Herberto Dhanis, Roy Salomon, Hannes Bleuler, Giulio Rognini, Olaf Blanke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thought insertion (TI) is characterized by the experience that certain thoughts, occurring in one's mind, are not one's own, but the thoughts of somebody else and suggestive of a psychotic disorder. We report a robotics-based method able to investigate the behavioral and subjective mechanisms of TI in healthy participants. We used a robotic device to alter body perception by providing online sensorimotor stimulation, while participants performed cognitive tasks implying source monitoring of mental states attributed to either oneself or another person. Across several experiments, conflicting sensorimotor stimulation reduced the distinction between self- and other-generated thoughts and was, moreover, associated with the experimentally generated feeling of being in the presence of an alien agent and subjective aspects of TI. Introducing a new robotics-based approach that enables the experimental study of the brain mechanisms of TI, these results link TI to predictable self-other shifts in source monitoring and specific sensorimotor processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101955
Issue number1
StatePublished - 22 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Nathan Faivre and Jevita Potheegadoo for input on the manuscript, Elisa Ciaramelli for her important input on the SGE paradigm, and all members of the Blanke laboratory for discussions and other help with the project. This work was supported by two generous donors advised by CARIGEST SA (the first one wishing to remain anonymous and the second one being Fondazione Teofilo Rossi di Montelera e di Premuda), the Roger de Spoelberch Foundation , the Bertarelli Family Foundation , and the Swiss National Science Foundation to O.B. as well as by the National Center of Competence in Research : SYNAPSY –The Synaptic Bases of Mental Disease (financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation ) to O.B. M.H. was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • Psychology
  • Research Methodology Social Sciences
  • Robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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