Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scientists Induce Out-of-Body Sensation

Using virtual reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — - in healthy people, according to experiments being published in the journal Science. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Tej Tadi A reprensentation of one of the scenarios scientists used to study out-of-body experiences. When people gaze at an illusory image of themselves through the goggles and are prodded in just the right way with the stick, they feel as if they have left their bodies. The research reveals that “the sense of having a body, of being in a bodily self,” is actually constructed from multiple sensory streams..."

Usually these sensory streams, which include vision, touch, balance and the sense of where one’s body is positioned in space, work together seamlessly, Prof. Botvinick said. But when the information coming from the sensory sources does not match up, when they are thrown out of synchrony, the sense of being embodied as a whole comes apart.

The brain, which abhors ambiguity, then forces a decision that can, as the new experiments show, involve the sense of being in a different body.

The research provides a physical explanation for phenomena usually ascribed to other-worldly influences...

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