Out-of-Body Experiences

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What goes around, comes around Some people are using virtual reality to provoke a sense of out-of-body in people and then measuring the reaction. This is not new, I participated in a similar experiment about twenty years ago and it still raises the hair on my arms... Today's story is from Time/CNN:
The Science of Out-of-Body Experiences
Get ready to see yourself in a new light. Two papers released this week by the journal Science describe what seem to be the first lab-induced out-of-body experiences in healthy people. Using goggles hooked up to video cameras, and sticks to poke and stroke, researchers subjected study participants to a variety of visual and physical cues to confuse their brain about their body's location. Sound a bit impractical? Consider, then, how the studies relate to humankind's most enduring question: what makes us ourselves in the first place? "I'm not really interested in out-of-body experiences," says Henrik Ehrsson, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "I'm really interested in in-body experiences: how the brain keeps and updates a model of the world and the body. To have a perception of your own body is the foundation of self-consciousness."
A bit more:
In both studies, participants wore goggles hooked up to cameras planted in the corner of the room behind them, so that participants had a view of their own backs. Then they were physically stimulated in ways that would enhance or reduce the feeling that their selves were located outside their bodies. For his paper, Ehrsson used a stick to poke the chest of each participant (out of view of the person being poked) while also poking the area below the camera where a chest would have been (which the person could see through the goggles). Sure enough, the participants reported that it felt like their vantage point was exactly the same as that of the camera. "You feel quite clearly that you are sitting in the corner of the room, and you see yourself sitting elsewhere. But it's not you," Ehrsson says. To be certain � and to get some harder data � he hooked up his participants to stress-monitoring devices, and then swung a hammer at the space where the illusory chest would have been. The readings showed signs of stress all right. Many participants also visibly flinched.
The experiment I participated in back in the 1980's involved sitting in a chair wearing a pair of eyepiece B/W video monitors. My head was attached to a frame that was connected to a position measuring device and the signal from that device was sent to a pair of video cameras about 15 feet away. These cameras were mounted on a motor that would follow the movement of my head. It started with the video feed being blank -- the people presenting this were talking to me and walking around the room (a fairly large room). I was then asked to turn my head to the left and they turned the video feed on. I could see the people involved and they showed me some stuff and had me follow them as they walked around. NOTE: With the camera/monitor setup, I had about a 30-degree field of vision with zero peripheral vision. After five minutes or so, they then walked around to my right and I could see someone sitting in a chair with some hardware on their head. They asked me to raise my right arm and the figure in the chair raised theirs. It had only taken me about five minutes to "forget" that I was sitting in a chair viewing the world through video monitors -- due in part to the constant interaction with the presenters. Realizing that that was me sitting in the chair over there was one of the more eerie experiences I have ever had.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on August 23, 2007 10:07 PM.

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