Out of Body Experiences: Medical Mysteries or Scientific Explanation?

Out of body experiences

Out of body experiences have long been one of many medical mysteries — until now, says a new study. One in 10 people report having had an out-of-body experience while laying in beds, many believing it to be a result of divine intervention.

In experiments published in the Science journal, experts have successfully triggered out-of-body experiences in several individuals. This begs the question: Are out-of-body experiences supernatural, or simply logical and explainable occurrences, resulting from neurological activity in the brain.

To find out, the researchers had volunteers wear visual-display goggles and stand in front of a camera. While looking through the goggles, the volunteers saw a virtual-reality version of themselves standing in front of them.

When the scientists touched their real back, the volunteers could see their virtual back being touched as well. Surprisingly, the participants reported feeling that the sensation of touch originated from their virtual self, simply because they could see the action happening to themselves. This made them feel as if the hologram was the “real” them.

Dr Ehrsson said: “This experiment suggests that the first-person visual perspective is critically important for the in-body experience. In other words, we feel that our self is located where the eyes are.”

Even stranger, when the virtual volunteer hologram was replaced with a tangible mannequin image and the touch experiment was repeated, they still reported feeling as if the mannequin was their real body.

Taking it one step further, the researchers threatened their virtual body by swinging a hammer at it, and the volunteers had a significant physiological response, including increased sweating (a common sign of nervousness or fear).

I would like this experiment taken even one step further by getting a participant that is in an electric wheelchair. To see the physiological response and the difference between a person in a wheelchair and a person not in a wheelchair.

Dr Susan Blackmore, psychologist and visiting lecturer at the University of the West of England, said: “Scientists have long suspected that the clue to these extraordinary, and sometimes life-changing, experiences lies in disrupting our normal illusion of being a self behind our eyes, and replacing it with a new viewpoint from above or behind.”

The researchers even acknowledged the amazing implications these findings could have for video games — oh yeah, and something boring about surgeons being able to perform life-saving operations from thousands of miles away through a robotic version of themselves.

Have you or anyone you know ever had an out of body experience?

28 comments… add one
  • Hi, you are most welcome. Very interesting article =)
    Thanks for the digg and stumble!

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  • Thanks for your article, Now there is more reason to comment than ever before! This is a great fir for our project!

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  • hello. i’m a MENSA member, (145 IQ) Chemistry major, married to a doctor etc I am LDS (Mormon) don’t drink, take drugs etc etc

    I had an out of body or near death experience (still not sure which category is correct). Those who have never had a real experience, do not understand it and falsely attribute it to the brain or nervous system. Mine was while I was alert/awake and I was actually “transported” to another universe. As crazy as it may sound, It really did happen. So I believe there are those genuine stories like my own, others that are drug induced and less genuine, and perhaps still other stories of those who may have had there’s triggered via their brain chemistry/electrical components etc.

    I think as “Scientists” we need to not leap before we look. I dislike strongly when medicine or science gawks at, or belittle’s paranormal or spiritual experiences just because they do not understand them. 98 percent of the world (including myself) believe there is a God. Because there IS a God.

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  • As a scientist. How can you believe there is a god when we have so much proof that there isn’t one. I’ve studied Charles Darwin for the past two years and there is a lot more proof for evolution than there is for the so called “Adam and Eve”. You seem like a bright individual who is married to a doctor. So how can you physically sit there and say there is a god up there.

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  • as a scientist, Owen, you seem like a smart individual, but there’s a difference between ‘smart’ and ‘wise’. Accepting the commonly held theory at the time (the scientific one) makes you smart, but not wise. Why not wise? because scientific theories are always changing, why base your world-view on it?

    I’m not saying I believe in God. I have no beliefs actually. Science is a belief, so is God, so is believing that you are a self trapped in a human body, or.. that you’re simply the combination of your parts (materialistic reductionist theory), all of these are beliefs. Get out of beliefs. Study some philosophy. Question.

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  • hi my name is koren , i hade an out of body experience ,one night i went to bed i dont know how long i was sleeping but i was standing up watching my self sleep,i toled people but they laugh at me and said i was dreaming ,i know i was not dreaming .what does that meen when you can see your self slepping

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  • if susan was as cleaver at understanding the brain as she says why would she have to take drugs to induce a nde no body knows how the brain works and never will as the old saying goes what came first the chicken or the egg look around in summer leaves are on trees and the flowers are out in winer they die but they always come back look at the sky and grass where did it all come from and the sea without water we would die without light we would die this is not man made so it has to come from some where so susan before you have your bacon sandwitch or cup of tea think how the pig got hear or the water please dont take offence to this mike you are welcome to email me if you wish thanks mike

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  • This is at totally fascinating subject. I wish more people would do more work on it. After all, at the end of the day, what else is there? 🙂

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  • Actally, this is an interesting article. As many claim that they had a “divine experience” by being able to see themself be attacked, sleeping etc. they try to convince others that it was God. I myself don’t believe in God. Evolution said it all for me, otherwise the whole human populace would be a bunch of inbreds, seeing as Adam and Eve supposedly had 24 children. And Mike, saying, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Is like asking “which came first, the human parent or the child?”

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  • I had an out of body experience at the age of 16 during meditation. It didn’t last very long, because I became afraid and I slipped back into my physical body.But it was an absolutely amazing experience and I tried hundreds of times to repeat it, but unfortunately it never happened again.

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  • It is important for the people to give time on their body to exercise. Having exercised daily is so imperative in the body to make it healthy and physically fit.

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  • I’ve had OBEs for several years now and now for a fact that OBEs are real. But it is my personal experience – but I know the truth of the matter because I’ve experienced it many, many times. The first OBE I had was when I was 26, and I had started to look into the process of sleep and dreams. Because I came from an atheist family, and due to my background as a scientist (published several papers – spent childhood in laboratories watching experiments take place etc..) I felt that I was really well trained to look at OBEs fully objectively. Yet, because of my training and experience, I also knew that I needed to keep an open-mind to things. Countless findings in science has been due to luck, to intuition and to mistakes. And one thing that is needed in science and life is to keep an open-mind about things.
    Coming back to my experience, I got this book called a Course in Astral Travel & Dreams by author Belsebuub – it had many excellent reviews and moreover people were reporting being able to have OBEs quite quickly. So it felt like a good book to start with. I started to read it, and according to the book, OBEs can be experienced by falling asleep consciously and keeping our consciousness awake during the whole process simply by keeping our concentration on 1 thing.
    Sounded easy until I tried. It took me a while, but after 6 weeks, I had my first OBE. Needless to say it was quite an experience. Yet, I could not tell whether or not it was a product of my imagination or not. I needed to be able to verify it for myself.
    The chance came when one day I had family over who stayed with me. They slept in the living room as there was no other room. (scientists are not rich people.. that is if you work for universities, government and not a pharmaceutical company 🙂 )
    I had a spontaneous OBE that morning, that is one I was not trying to have, but I just found myself out of my body. Because I had already done this a few times already, I was familiar with the feeling of it all. I knew that next door was my family sleeping. So I went through the door of my bedroom and stood in the living room, being able to observe the scene: what I saw was incredible. First of all, I saw 2 bodies of the same person, one was alseep in the futon in a very specific position (more later), while the other body of the same person was opposite in the armchair, seemingly having a discussion with other people, and was moving the mouth and making gesture as if speaking but to no one in particular. And then the other person was sitting at the desk working on a computer, but wearing clothes that I had seen him wear when I was a kid (a really old jumper-suit from the 80’s). I realized that here was my chance to verify things for real. So I quickly went back into my physical body, and got out of my bedroom to the living room. The person on the computer was there as I had seen him, and wearing the exact same clothing, which was extremely unbelievable as the clothes were some I remembered from childhood and I had thought that they had been thrown out a long time ago. I was quite shocked to see this. I then turned around to look at the armchair but it was empty, and then looked to the futon and saw the person in the exact same position I had seen her be. It was so surreal. Her hair was sticking out the same way, her facial expression was exactly the same, and her arm was positioned in that same intricate way (which I first thought I must have imagined as it looked peculiarly painful to have the arm in that position).

    Now of course, because I lived it all, I know it for real and for truth – no one can tell me that what I experienced is not true. People can choose not to believe me, others can choose to believe me, and pass on this story. But for these 2 types of people, all you are doing is “believing”.

    I’d say to you, all of you, you can look for the truth, you can experience and verify things for yourselves. There is no need to believe a theory. Science is about experimentation, about finding things. I have no doubt that we can make the brain feel different things as it is being described in this article, but to confuse it with real OBEs is another totally different thing.

    OBEs are real, and safe. We do it every night. The other “body” I saw in the armchair was the “astral” body of the person sleeping. One is the physical body, asleep in the futon, which is resting and the other one in the armchair is the one having and living the dreams, outside of the physical body. In my experience, I was able to see these 2 bodies. It was priceless.

    We do it every night, we just don’t remember it. Sometimes, we realize that we are dreaming, and have what is called a lucid dreaming, and sometimes we become fully conscious and see exactly where our astral body is and what is around it. And that is called an conscious out-of-body experience.

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