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?