An out-of-body experience (OBE), also known as an outward appearance, is the perception of the world outside your body. These people report that they can move, observe, and communicate with other creatures while their bodies sleep. It’s surprisingly common – it’s estimated to be 10 percent. People experience it at least once in their life.
OBE symptoms can be triggered by a number of factors – from brain tumors to epilepsy – but are most commonly associated with experiences of death. Patients often report OBE after episodes of cardiac arrest and clinical death.
For many people, OBE and NDEs lead to profound spiritual transformations, but scientists are not convinced of this aspect. Instead, there are more and more explanations for the changes that occur in the brain during these phenomena.
Dr. Jane Aspel, a neuroscientist at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), is conducting experiments with OBE using virtual reality (VR) headsets to better understand how the brain creates an “I” identity. This technology could have medical applications, to help people with schizoaffective disorders or painful conditions such as fibromyalgia.
– OBE experiences are incredibly real and feel very authentic to the person who experienced them. It seems that the “I”, their consciousness, their soul, their spirit – whatever they want to call it – are separate from the body. This can naturally lead people to conclude, “Well, that means I have a soul, a mind, or a consciousness that has nothing to do with my body.” And when it comes in the context of a possible death, I don’t think this conclusion would surprise anyone, Dr Jane Aspel told Express.co.uk.
The brain is a very “plastic” organ and can be easily confused under the right conditions. What really happens during OBE is evidence that the brain creates very vivid but inaccurate hallucinations.
The studies were conducted in hospitals where people who had experienced OBE were asked to describe their surroundings. Patients were not told of things hidden in high places and out of their reach, so they did not appear in their accounts, proving that they never floated out of the body and all the experiences that developed in the brain.
It’s not known why this happens, but the evidence is clear – it’s a matter of certain disorders of the brain, and OBE can happen to just about anyone.
“We don’t know the details of how the brain does this, but it certainly sounds like a hallucination.” Some people believe that the out-of-body experience is evidence that consciousness can remain outside the body or may be detached from the body. There is certainly a more plausible explanation, Dr. Aspel added, which is that the brain sometimes hallucinates.
Dr. Aspell experimented with stimulating OBEs in volunteers using virtual reality glasses. Study participants were asked to wear goggles that displayed video footage from a camera placed directly behind them. When their back was touched, they saw that they were being touched and felt that they were not present in their body.
Dr. Aspel said the technique could be used to reduce chronic pain or to help people with severe trauma. The research is funded by the charity Against Arthritis and The Bial Foundation.
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