Scientists: Out-of-body experiences are products of confused minds


People close to death have described how they have floated from their bodies and looked back at themselves Photo: ALAMY

AAAS: Out-of-body experiences are just the product of a confused mind

Out-of-body experiences are not “spiritual” phenomenon but tricks played by a confused mind, claim scientists who fooled people into thinking they inhabited the body of a virtual human.

Telegraph | Feb 18, 2011

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent in Washington

Throughout history people have described how they have floated from their bodies and looked back at themselves, often when close to death or on the operating table.

The accounts have been so vivid that they are often cited as proof of the existence of the soul or Heaven.

But scientists now claim they have dispelled this myth by artificially creating an out-of-body experience using computers and cameras.

They believe the feeling of detachment occurs when the brain becomes confused by conflict between the senses – and is not proof of any “spiritual dimension” to existence.

Professor Olaf Blanke and his team at University of Geneva said they had “immersed” volunteers into the body of an avatar – a computer generated version of themselves.

Volunteers were asked to wear virtual reality goggles and then stand in front of a camera.

The subjects saw the cameras view of their back on screens in the goggles, computer enhanced to create a 3D virtual version or avatar.

When their back was stroked with a pen so was the virtual avatar in front of them, making them think that the virtual body was in fact their own.

In this way people became confused about their real and the virtual self – even though they were effectively two metres apart from each other.

Prof Blanke, who presented his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington, said: “Through vision and touch they lost themselves.

“They start thinking that the avatar is their own body. We created a partial out-of-body experience.

“We were able to dissociate touch and vision and make people think that their body was two metres in front of them.”

He said by inducing the out-of-body experience it proved it was more like a brain malfunction when sight, touch and balance become confused.

Dr Blanke said: “Instead of it being a spiritual thing, it is the brain being confused. Why do we think that it is spiritual when we don’t think a phantom limb when one is lost is an example of the paranormal.”

To take the research further they used sensors connected to the skull to find the areas of the brain most involved in deciding where it belongs.

These were found to be temporo-parietal and frontal regions – parts at the front and right side of the brain responsible for integrating touch and vision.

If these were damaged or somehow short-circuited it could account for the feeling of floating above your body often associated with an out-of-body experiences.

Aside from explaining out-of-body experiences, the work could have more commercial applications, said the researcher.

The technique could be used to make computer games even more exciting or projecting people into robot soldiers or surgeons.

They could even be used to treat eating disorders linked with a flawed body image, such as anorexia.

Out-of-body experiences most often occur during sleep or waking as well as through drug use, trauma and under anaesthetic.

They effect around one in 10 of the population.

7 responses to “Scientists: Out-of-body experiences are products of confused minds

  1. They’d have field day with me.

    Supposedly near death experiences are because brain chemicals are out of whack–but duh–if your body is technically “dead,” yeah–

    But that doesn’t invalidate the experience-

    Funny thing about being psychic is when you know things, but have to wait for actual confirmation–haha–

  2. But if anybody came after me–I’d just play dumb-I do it well-

  3. They use the rationale–if something can be faked–ergo–it’s all fake.

    And that is unscientific–

  4. Right, very unscientific conclusion, but the general public will swallow it because “they’re the experts”. In addition, there hasn’t been any attempt to explain why NDE survivors can see, and later recall, what is happening on the gurney from above. Basically another attempt to say everything can be broken down into physical and chemical reactions. Philosophical materialism.

  5. none of what they try to explain is related to the out of body experiences i had, i meant to say spiritual experiences, how can we in our spiritual experience talk, and remember our experience if it doesnt include the concious?
    so they fail to explain that you are fully concious.
    what they really did with their study is made up a new video game and say its the answer to spiritual experiences LOL
    the characters on video games can also think like us but it dont mean its us, …wonder who they used for their g-pig

  6. Ok so let me get this straight. Your telling me that because you (scientist) were able to basically mimic (your interpretation) of what an outer body experience is, and that the person responded to it is basis for you to dismiss the actual experience of “outer body experiences”? Have you lost your God given minds!!!!!!? Please help me understand this bullshit?
    SO, then when your watching a porno, and there is this really hot chick (or whatever it is), she’s sexy, she’s talking in a very unintimidating voice, she’s luring you in, you begin to feel her breath on your thigh, and then her lips on the tip of your c…..
    Uhm, yah well, I’m sure you bookmark it, right? You bookmark it because it showed up with all the necessary components that one would need in order to expereince what they experience when they are alone. Anyway, I’m bored…….

  7. Let me say, an experience that one is capable of experiencing when they are actually getting a blow j…. Rather than watching someone else getting one. :)

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