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October 4, 2006
Stimulating an "Out of Body Experience"...Seriously
In yesterday's NYTimes Sandra Blakeslee follows up on a topic I blogged on in January in "Is God in Your Brain? Neurotheology." In "Out-of-Body Experience? Your Brain Is to Blame" she writes:
"They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self. Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.
But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions (the electrodes were being implanted during epilepsy surgery).
'The research shows that the self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence,'" said Dr. Peter Brugger, a neuroscientist not directly involved in the experiments."
This research has obvious implications for neurotheology, the study of the neurobiology of spiritual experiences which I have written about here, here, and here. I'm looking for researchers who are currently conducting new studies using TMS to stimulate OBE's. If you are one, or know of a researcher who is, please contact me for a story I'm writing.
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