Science Creates and Studies Out of Body Experiences

Image source: unknown. I was ‘out’ at the time.
Hacker Boy sent me this earlier today, the very detailed Economist piece Out of your mind, not out of your body: Out-of-body experiences can now be created at will. Studying them sheds light on the nature of consciousness. It’s about using out-of-body experiences in science and surgery, but the Guardian’s piece has the best snip — dig the title and subheads, Scientists develop technique to induce out-of-body experiences:

· Breakthrough could be used in remote surgery
· Virtual reality games may also be improved
Scientists have induced the age-old phenomenon of out-of-body experiences in healthy volunteers for the first time.
The technique, which uses a virtual-reality-style set up of cameras linked to a head-mounted video display, will help researchers understand how the brain assimilates sensory information to determine the position of its body.
The technique could also improve virtual reality games and remote surgery by creating the illusion that a person is somewhere other than in their own body.
Out-of-body experiences are defined as those where a person who is awake sees their own body from somewhere outside themselves. The experiences have been reported in situations where brain function has been damaged through a stroke, epilepsy or drug abuse. The most common cases occur in traumatic situations such as car accidents or on operating tables.
“Out-of body-experiences have fascinated mankind for millennia – their existence has raised fundamental questions about the relationship between human consciousness and the body, and has been much discussed in theology, philosophy and psychology,” said Henrik Ehrsson, who carried out his experiments at University College London and is now based at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
“Although out-of-body experiences have been reported in a number of clinical conditions, the neuro-scientific basis of this phenomenon remains unclear.”
One idea is that these experiences could be explained by errors in how the brain assimilates the visual, tactile and other sensory information coming in from the body. Normally the brain uses the information to construct an idea of the body’s position in space. By mixing up the sensory inputs Dr Ehrsson wanted to see if the brain could be tricked into believing its body was somewhere else.


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