Preliminary evidence showed a reduced temporal sensitivity (i.e., larger temporal binding window) to audiovisual asynchrony in obesity. Our aim was to extend this investigation to visuotactile stimuli, comparing individuals of healthy weight and with obesity in a simultaneity judgment task. We verified that individuals with obesity had a larger temporal binding window than healthy-weight individuals, meaning that they tend to integrate visuotactile stimuli over an extended range of stimulus onset asynchronies. We point out that our finding gives evidence in support of a more pervasive impairment of the temporal discrimination of co-occurrent stimuli, which might affect multisensory integration in obesity. We discuss our results referring to the possible role of atypical oscillatory neural activity and structural anomalies in affecting the perception of simultaneity between multisensory stimuli in obesity. Finally, we highlight the urgency of a deeper understanding of multisensory integration in obesity at least for two reasons. First, multisensory bodily illusions might be used to manipulate body dissatisfaction in obesity. Second, multisensory integration anomalies in obesity might lead to a dissimilar perception of food, encouraging overeating behaviours.
The Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) is used widely to investigate the multisensory integration mechanisms that support bodily self-consciousness and, more specifically, body ownership and self-location. It has been reported that individuals affected by obesity show anomalous multisensory integration processes. We propose that these obesity-induced changes could lead to an unusual susceptibility to the RHI and anomalous bodily self-experience. To test this hypothesis, we administered a modified version of the RHI (using a picture of the participant’s hand) to individuals affected by obesity and participants with a healthy weight. During synchronous and asynchronous stimulation, we compared the subjective experience of the illusion (using a questionnaire) and the effect of the illusion on self-location (i.e., proprioceptive drift). In accordance with the illusion phenomenology, both groups had a comparable subjective illusory experience after the synchronous stimulation. Nevertheless, individuals affected by obesity showed less recalibration of self-location than healthy weight participants. In light of a recent interpretation of the multisensory integration mechanisms that underpin the RHI, our findings suggest that in obesity visuo-tactile integration supporting the subjective experience of the illusion is preserved, whereas visuo-proprioceptive integration for self-location is reduced.