Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Illusion Mimics Out-of-Body Experiences

So now we can manipulate the brain enough that we can even mimic the so-called "out of body" experience (link open for free for a limited time only).

The effect was created in two separate experiments described in Science1,2 this week, both of which used a simple method to fool volunteers into thinking that their minds had been displaced outside their bodies. In each case, participants wore virtual-reality goggles hooked up to cameras trained on their own bodies.

In one study, carried out by Henrik Ehrsson at University College London, volunteers were then prodded in the chest at precisely the same moment that an object approached the camera. In this scenario, the volunteers identified strongly with the location of the camera, thinking that this is where their true self was — the view of their body was like a view of someone else.

In the other experiment, led by Olaf Blanke of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, patients viewed a camera image of their own back being stroked, while their own back was stroked too. In this instance, volunteers identified strongly with the picture of their back, thinking that this was their location - again outside their own body.

So again, something that was "mystical" and supernatural actually is nothing more than our minds playing tricks on us, as in the case of many other examples (placebo effect). It is why valid evidence cannot be based on just anecdotal evidence. Our minds can be easily susceptible to illusions that we think are real. Scientific evidence requires a lot more rigorous testing to ensure that we do not fool ourselves.


[1] H. Henrik Ehrsson Science v.317, p.104824 (2007).
[2] Bigna Lenggenhager et al. Science v.317, p. 1096 (2007).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I wonder how can someone volunteer for that kind of experiments? I would love to be part of any. Indeed, it sound so interesting and exciting.