Using virtual reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences in healthy people, according to experiments being published in the journal Science.The article was by Sandra Blakeslee, who co-authored Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, a great book, with V. S. Ramachandran, which reported earlier versions of similar results.
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, said Matthew Botvinick, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Princeton University who is an expert on body and mind but was not involved in the experiments.
Usually these sensory streams, which include vision, touch, balance and the sense of where one's body is positioned in space, work together seamlessly, Botvinick said. But when the information coming from the sensory sources does not match up, 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.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Out of body experience
From the New York Times.