One in ten of us has had an out of body experience at some point in our lives. This can take the form of feeling like we have floated outside the confines of our bodies and are looking down on ourselves. Understandably, rigorous scientific studies are few and far between, but a few researchers have shown an interest in proving that the mind is able to travel outside the body.
A couple of years ago there was a proposal for a fascinating study to directly test whether people’s consciousness can actually leave their bodies. Dr Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry wanted to attach a picture near the ceilings of 25 emergency rooms around the UK. Patients who had been near to death were to be interviewed to find out if they had seen the picture.
Unfortunately I can’t find any results for the study so perhaps it wasn’t carried out or didn’t produce positive findings. If anyone knows better then drop me a line.
The interesting thing about out of body experiences – which perhaps explains why there is such a fascination with the subject – is their link to religion and spiritualism. If the mind is able to float free from the body, then perhaps life after death is possible.
Psychologist’s explanations of out of body experiences tend to revolve around more prosaic theories. For example these experiences may be the result of the brain’s reaction to trying circumstances – such as high levels of stress. Out of body experiences have even been induced in patients by stimulating part of the brain – namely the right angular gyrus.
The University of Manchester is currently examining how out of body experiences are related to bodily self-perception. If you’re interested in taking part, the survey is available online.
→ Explore PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
Skeptic’s Dictionary on out of body experiences.