The New York Times recently interviewed professional baseball players, who all said that when they're on a hitting streak, the baseball looks the size of a grapefruit, but when they're doing badly, it looks about the size of an ant. The mind controls all sorts of things, including how we see ourselves and our bodies.
Whether you feel fat, thin or in between has little to do with the reality of your body, because a person's self-image is an illusion constructed in the brain.
Neurologist Henrik Ehrsson researched his patients' body images by using MRIs to scan their brains while asking them what they thought about their bodies. A vibrating device was placed on each study volunteer's wrist, which stimulated a tendon and created the sensation that the joint was flexing. When their hands touched their waists, the volunteers felt their wrists bending, creating the illusion that their waists were small.
During the tendon exercise, all the participants said that they felt their waists had shrunk by up to 28%. The MRIs showed high levels of activity in the part of the brain that integrates sensory information from different parts of the body.
"We process information about our body size every day, such as feeling thin or fat when we put our clothes on in the morning, or when walking through a narrow doorway or ducking under a low ceiling," says Ehrsson. "However?there are no specialized receptors in the body that send information to the brain about the size and shape of body parts. Instead, the brain appears to create a map of the body by integrating signals from the relevant body parts, such as skin, joints and muscles, along with visual cues." In other words, our brains make educated guesses?and sometimes they guess wrong.
"Other studies have shown that people with injuries in that part of the brain think that the size and shape of their body parts have changed. People who suffer from migraines with auras can sometimes experience a phenomenon called the 'Alice in Wonderland syndrome,' where they feel that various body parts are shrinking," Ehrsson says.
This study may lead to help for anorexics and bulemics, since it shows that these disorders may be at least partially caused by brain damage.
If YOU need to lose weight, follow Anne Strieber's scientific and funny advice.
Art credit: Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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