Friday, November 26, 2010

Scientists Spot Brain Center for 'Out-of-Body' Experience

New research is taking a little of the mystery out of the phenomenon known as the "out-of-body" experience.

A team of Belgian scientists have linked the sense of disembodiment central to the experience -- the feeling of leaving one's body and then floating outside it -- to abnormal activity in a specific region of the brain.

This activity appears to short-circuit the processing of sensory information and the ability to locate oneself in time and space, the team said.

"Self-perception is nothing else but a creation of your brain," explained study lead author and neurosurgeon Dr. Dirk De Ridder, of the neurosurgical department at Antwerp University. "We found a key spot in the brain in which different areas are normally activated whenever stimulus comes in, so you can relate that stimulus to yourself, which helps create a unified perception of ourselves."

"The 'total perception of self,' " he added, "is built out of different parts. And one of these parts is that your consciousness belongs within your body."

"But when something goes wrong in that brain area so that the integration of all the incoming information -- sight, sound, smell, the senses -- is not happening as it should, then you can feel that you're not in your body," De Ridder said. "You can get an out-of-body experience. You're perfectly conscious. But you just feel as if you're not actually sitting in your body."

His team reported its finding in the Nov. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

De Ridder's team discovered what they believe is a hardwired connection between the out-of-body experience and specific abnormal brain activity. They did so while observing the unanticipated side-effects of a treatment offered to a 63-year-old Belgian patient suffering from tinnitus, more commonly known as "ringing in the ears."

To alleviate his condition, doctors had implanted electrodes in a region in the right side of the man's brain known as the temporoparietal junction.

Unfortunately, stimulation of the electrodes failed to halt the ear-ringing. However, in the process of doing so, the attending physicians found that the patient repeatedly experienced what he described as an out-of-body experience. ...

via Scientists Spot Brain Center for 'Out-of-Body' Experience - MedNews.


Patrick said...

I'm enjoying being a skeptic lately, Xeno. But weren't there some documented cases of some people identifying objects in the room or something during these supposed experiences?

Xeno said...

I think that is a just rumor based on wishful thinking, but let me know if you find a reference. That would be really big news. People who have Oobs saw things in a room in one experiment but in the one I know of the experimenter told us that what they saw was not something actually in the room. The subjects saw a dream, a vivid hallucination. Lucid dreams can be incredibly real.

Sepp said...

Of course, even with this research, the question remains: what is the cause and what is the effect?

Is the changed brain activity a consequence of the spiritual entity leaving the body, or is the feeling of leaving the body a consequence of a change in brain activity.

We can't really be sure about that without some more conclusive data, can we?