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Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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October 4, 2006

Stimulating an "Out of Body Experience"...Seriously

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Posted by Zack Lynch

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."

front_temporal.jpgThis 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.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurotheology


1. Don Hill on October 5, 2006 11:28 PM writes...

I'm an associate-researcher and colleague of Dr. Michael Persinger, a pioneer in rTMS and, in particular, evoking the 'sensed presence'. He has been touted in the international media as one of the leading exponents of 'neurotheology'.

We are presently collaborating on a book, chronicling two decades of experimental research at the Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory.

Dr. Persinger's work is oft-cited, indeed coopted (notably by scientists in America); rarely has he been credited for tackling taboo science and investigating career-killing questions about the nature of human sentience.


Don Hill

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2. Shane Widner on October 8, 2006 3:30 PM writes...

I'd be interested in being a test subject as I am completely fascinated by this aspect of the neurosciences.

Keep me posted!


Shane Widner

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3. Kensai on November 13, 2006 10:39 AM writes...

Such events empower my belief that in the end THERE IS such thing as a "neuroscientific determinism".


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4. gilles quinto on February 6, 2007 4:34 PM writes...

i had when i was younger 2 out of body experiences. when a sleep, i was around 17, i felt like my body was leaving then felt like been out of it. the first time after few minutes i was scared and decided to reintegrate my body. the second time happened few days later and when out of body i felt like if an other (thing) wanted to go in my body, i rushed in my body,and arrive few seconds before this thing i was very scared and didn't like it. i took me few month to accept my self after that. I recall touching my face to make sure it was me .....

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5. Cynthia Murray on April 13, 2007 1:22 PM writes...

I would like to share my story of my out of body experience which was caused do to lack of sleep and cocain and weed but it was the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.. Ive been clean since 1999 but still have major issues when it comes to sleep . when i close my eyes i dont get to sleep sound i dream the entire time and never really feel rested . The last time i felt like i was a sleep was in the dentist chair under anastesha when i woke i told the dentist you dont know how long its been since i slept that good

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6. c.murray on April 13, 2007 1:34 PM writes...

Sitting in a room back against the wall hadnt slept in days four to be exact, some body suggested we smoke a joint as i hit this weed i felt myself slip out of my body and start floating above the room i could see everyone in the room but couldnt hear it was silent i remember floating up face first but i could see out of the back of my head. it was then i realized i was no longer in my body that was seated on the floor i felt alittle scared but more in shock that this could be happening to me just then i saw the person sitting next to me lean in and say something but i could hear him then the same motion from him again i could tell he was trying to communicate with me then he screamed my name and that triggered my return i heard the end of my name so loud. the only way to explain my return to my body is " It felt like my soul was sucked through a pin whole and it was painful but like a mild pain over my entire body like a ache its very difficult to explain the person that was sitting next to me who hollared my name said i never blinked or breathed he thought i was dead!! I told them what had happened but i think people thought i was crazy. Matter of facty i questioned my own sanity

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