Out-of-body experience recreated [BBC News]

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hypnagogue
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Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers.

The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.

Two teams used virtual reality goggles to con the brain into thinking the body was located elsewhere.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6960612.stm

Very interesting. Though at least one puzzle remains in explaining naturally occurring OBEs, which is to explain why people spontaneously experience shifts in visual perspective. In this experiment they create the perspective shift using cameras and goggles, but how does it work when it happens naturally?
 

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  • #2
Ivan Seeking
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Coming soon to Radio Shack...
 
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Though at least one puzzle remains in explaining naturally occurring OBEs, which is to explain why people spontaneously experience shifts in visual perspective. In this experiment they create the perspective shift using cameras and goggles, but how does it work when it happens naturally?
What is reported here isn't exactly an OBE but should more specifically be termed autoscopy. This often happens during OBE's but an OBE involves a floating sensation, and can include the illusion of floating off to distant locations where the "self" is no longer visible from the outside.

My take on your question is that the "floating" sensation of an OBE is what triggers the autoscopic hallucination. When a person's proprioception cuts out they experience a sensory deprivation that the mind then tries to rationalize. No longer able to sense the position of their limbs or body they explain this by deciding they must be floating. At the same time things like sense of touch are not affected: they can still feel the touch of the bedding against their skin. The mind has, therefore, to create an explanation that includes both floating and being in bed at the same time.
 
  • #5
berkeman
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At least for me, the OBE floating-around-the-room sensation comes when I'm at the intermediate stage between awake and asleep, able to think a little bit still, and my body is starting to enter the paralysis stage. At that point, if I try to move or tense the muscles in my legs and abs, that gives me the very strong sensation of lifting up off the bed and starting to float around. It's a pretty fun sensation, especially as you try to figure out which muscles to tense to go in different directions or turn around.

The first couple times this happened to me many years ago, I had to set up an experiment by putting a newspaper on top of a high dresser, to see if I could read it when I was floating around. No luck -- so I knew it was just a (very cool) physical sensation, and not a true OBE.
 
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It happens to me also when i am going to sleep, i am in bed and at random i start to feel like if my body starts to rotate and elevate from my bed. It last no more than 5 to 10 secconds.
 
  • #7
More review of these two papers in Nature's daily update.

http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070820/full/070820-9.html

Zz.

And it says,

The method does not recreate the 'classical' OBE — most strikingly because in the real-world setting, there's no obvious way for a person to 'see' themselves. But people could perhaps draw on their own mental body image to create the effect, says Ehrsson. "In the operating theatre there is no mirror on the ceiling, but there could be a 'mirror' in the head," he says. Ehrsson and Blanke suspect that this illusion might involve some sort of malfunction in brain regions such as the tempoparietal cortex that integrate sensory information.

Zz, you should know that posting a link to a site with rampant speculation is not allowed under the PF guidelines! :)
 
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ZapperZ
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Zz, you should know that posting a link to a site with rampant speculation is not allowed under the PF guidelines! :)

If one can get away with such "speculation" and get published in Nature, it certainly falls under our accepted Guidelines. I would consider the Taleyarkhan's bubble fusion "discovery" as "speculative", but it is still acceptable here since Science decided to publish it, regardless of my opinion of it.

Zz.
 
  • #9
berkeman
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Zz, you should know that posting a link to a site with rampant speculation is not allowed under the PF guidelines! :)

:rofl: Thanks for the laugh to start my morning off! :rofl:
 
  • #10
If one can get away with such "speculation" and get published in Nature, it certainly falls under our accepted Guidelines. I would consider the Taleyarkhan's bubble fusion "discovery" as "speculative", but it is still acceptable here since Science decided to publish it, regardless of my opinion of it.

Zz.

Sorry Zz, I still don't buy it. My understanding is that the actual peer-reviewed paper was published in Science, not Nature. And as far as I know, the content posted in "Nature's daily update" does not go through the peer-review process. So when you linked to the Nature daily update article, you linked to a NON peer-reviewed third-party page containing rampant speculation. In case I'm still not explaining myself properly, let me put it this way. In your example, the fact that Taleyarkhan published his work in Science makes it acceptable to discuss his work. HOWEVER, linking to a third party website (let's say my imaginary geocities page on the subject -- it's not peer-reviewed) that discusses his work and makes speculations would not be acceptable. That is my understanding of it after reading the guideline. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
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Sorry Zz, I still don't buy it. My understanding is that the actual peer-reviewed paper was published in Science, not Nature. And as far as I know, the content posted in "Nature's daily update" does not go through the peer-review process. So when you linked to the Nature daily update article, you linked to a NON peer-reviewed third-party page containing rampant speculation. In case I'm still not explaining myself properly, let me put it this way. In your example, the fact that Taleyarkhan published his work in Science makes it acceptable to discuss his work. HOWEVER, linking to a third party website (let's say my imaginary geocities page on the subject -- it's not peer-reviewed) that discusses his work and makes speculations would not be acceptable. That is my understanding of it after reading the guideline. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

First of all, yes, the original papers were published in Science, not Nature.

Secondly, linking reputable websites that report such a thing is a valid exercise. We link to many such sites, such as Hyperphysics, PhysicsWorld, Physics News Update, etc.. and in fact, in forums such as BTSM and high energy, we even allow, albeit with careful moderating, ArXiv preprints. So discussion about already-published work is definitely within the boundaries of what we would consider as acceptable. And that news item IS a discussion.

You are welcome to report it (and others that I've posted, especially in the Recent Noteworthy Papers in the General Physics forum) if you think it doesn't conform to our Guidelines.

Zz.
 
  • #13
You are welcome to report it (and others that I've posted, especially in the Recent Noteworthy Papers in the General Physics forum) if you think it doesn't conform to our Guidelines.

Good... consider yourself reported for citing "Interplay of electron-lattice interactions and superconductivity ..." I mean, what were they thinking with using two of their sources? (Just kidding ;)

I was being a little tongue-in-cheek when I brought up the notion that you of all people were violating the no-speculative-link-allowed rule. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up for me.
 
  • #14
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At least for me, the OBE floating-around-the-room sensation comes when I'm at the intermediate stage between awake and asleep, able to think a little bit still, and my body is starting to enter the paralysis stage. At that point, if I try to move or tense the muscles in my legs and abs, that gives me the very strong sensation of lifting up off the bed and starting to float around. It's a pretty fun sensation, especially as you try to figure out which muscles to tense to go in different directions or turn around.

The first couple times this happened to me many years ago, I had to set up an experiment by putting a newspaper on top of a high dresser, to see if I could read it when I was floating around. No luck -- so I knew it was just a (very cool) physical sensation, and not a true OBE.
It happens to me also when i am going to sleep, i am in bed and at random i start to feel like if my body starts to rotate and elevate from my bed. It last no more than 5 to 10 secconds.

This kind of experience has also been recreated "in the lab" so to speak:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00079AC8-53A5-1E40-89E0809EC588EEDF

Similarly, the September 19, 2002, issue of Nature reported that neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland and his colleagues were able to bring about out-of-body experiences through electrical stimulation of the right angular gyrus in the temporal lobe of a 43-year-old woman suffering from severe epileptic seizures. With initial mild stimulation, she felt she was "sinking into the bed" or "falling from a height." With more intense stimulation, she said she could "see myself lying in bed, from above, but I only see my legs and lower trunk." Another trial induced "an instantaneous feeling of 'lightness' and 'floating' about two meters above the bed, close to the ceiling."

A related study is cited in the 2001 book Why God Won't Go Away. In it, Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and the late Eugene D'Aquili found that when Buddhist monks meditate and Franciscan nuns pray, their brain scans show strikingly low activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe, a region the authors have dubbed the orientation association area (OAA). The OAA provides bearings for the body in physical space; people with damage to this area have a difficult time negotiating their way around a house, for instance. When the OAA is booted up and running smoothly, there is a sharp distinction between self and nonself. When the OAA is in sleep mode--as in deep meditation or prayer--that division breaks down, leading to a blurring of the lines between feeling in body and out of body.

So, tentatively, the posterior superior parietal lobe and the right angular gyrus of the temporal lobe are heavily implicated as the places that govern this hallucination probably something like this: when the posterior superior parietal lobe stops creating our sense of body position ("...brain scans show strikingly low activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe..." ) then the right angular gyrus of the temporal lobe tries to explain this sensory deprivation by generating the hallucination of seeing oneself and the room from a position of floating.
 

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