Out-of-body experiences a trick of the mind

August 23, 2007

I get that sensation when I fall asleep on my arm and my hand twitches too close to my face. One night, I thought a rat was attacking me.
clipped from www.newscientist.com

By deliberately scrambling a person’s visual and tactile senses, it is now possible to give them an “out-of-body” experience.

Two procedures – which are the first to imitate an out-of-body experience artificially – use cameras to fool people into thinking they are standing or sitting somewhere else in a room. They provide the strongest proof yet that people only imagine floating out of their bodies during surgery or near-death experiences.

To trick his subjects, Ehrsson gave had them wear a head-mounted display that showed them footage of themselves filmed from behind, while preventing them from seeing anything else.

He says the work is important because it de-stigmatises reports of out-of-body experiences by people who are on drugs, or ill with conditions such as migraine or epilepsy. “They don’t have to be mad to experience these things,” he says.

Both researchers say their experiments reinforce the idea that the “self” is closely tied to a “within-body” position
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