The Neuroscience of Barbie

Travis Riddle in Scientific American:

ScreenHunter_04 Nov. 08 22.37In science fiction and fantasy tales, there is a long running fascination with the idea of dramatically diminishing or growing in stature. In the 1989 classic, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Rick Moranis invents a device which accidentally shrinks both his own and the neighbor’s children down to a quarter-of-an-inch tall. Preceding this by more than 100 years, Lewis Carroll wrote about a little girl who, after tumbling down a rabbit hole, nibbles on some cake and then grows to massive proportions. Nearly 300 years ago, Jonathan Swift described the adventures of Gulliver while on the island of Lilliputan, on which he is a giant, and then on the island of Brobdingnag, where everyone else is a giant.

These kinds of experiences, however, have been limited to the world of fictional stories. The world around us does not actually change in size. Nor, with the exception of too many late-night Chinese deliveries, do our bodies become appreciably larger or smaller.

Or at least, they were mythical until recently. A research group at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has managed to make people feel as though they actually inhabited bodies of vastly different size – either that of dolls or of giants.

More here.