Out of body experience explained. Not!

Reality by Eran

“The experiments, described in Science, provide a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people. Using virtual reality goggles, researchers managed to fool the brain into believing the body was located elsewhere. The visual hoax plus the sensation of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved beyond their physical bodies.”

This is what it says on Cognews regarding the new experiments on the out of body phenomenon.

This is what I have to say about this:

“provide a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.” No it does not provide an explanation for the NDE phenomenon.

It does however show that the feeling of where one’s body is, can be altered using virtual reality and haptics. Nothing new. This experiment is not that dissimilar to a simple 3rd person computer game. Combined with said haptics that would immerse the player even more. This is, again, well known to anyone working with VR. The whole point with VR is to immerse the player into a world where the body is not. We do this by providing the senses with artificial cues. Eyes with visual cues, auditory system with sound, and we are starting to use haptics (touch) to also fool the body’s sense of touch. These inputs are all made by some sort och gadget. VR-goggles, haptic gloves, headphones. Just like in the experiment.

“Scientists have long suspected that the clue to these extraordinary, and sometimes life-changing, experiences lies in disrupting our normal illusion of being a self behind our eyes, and replacing it with a new viewpoint from above or behind.” news.bbc.co.uk

The question is, how is that possible? This is a virtual reality and immersion experiment, it can not explain the extrasensory perception phenomenon of NDE. In a real out of body phenomenon you don’t wear VR goggles and have a camera in the roof pointing down at your body, to feed your eyes with the altered viewpoint. How is it possible to have another viewpoint unless something somehow connected to your awareness changes physical position? This experiment tells us nothing about that.

The NDE and VR implications of this experiment are seriously exaggerated, and people seem to not understand what it actually tells us.

A good example of how important it is to explain an experiment and findings in an easy way for the public, to avoid misunderstandings.

More on NDE (Near Death Experience) here

And more on VR (Virtual Reality) here

Also check a fellow Blogger’s input on this!

Author: mrgnome

Cognitive Science master and general thinker of all sorts.

15 thoughts on “Out of body experience explained. Not!”

  1. Interesting…I’ve never believed in the so-called “out of body” experience. This just solidifies my skepticism.


  2. Well Doug, my point is that this experiment the way it was laid out is nothing more than a Virtual Reality experiment and tells us nothing about the out of body, extrasensory perception phenomenon reported by so many.

    Very few deadish people wear Virtual reality goggles hooked up to external cameras.
    But thanx for reading, now read again so you get what I’m trying to say 😉

  3. “it can not explain the extrasensory perception phenomenon of NDE.”

    That assumes that this phenomenon is real. I’m not convinced.

    This experiment demonstrates that a common experiential feature of OBE’s can be produced simply by tricking the brain, rather than requiring anyone to leave their physical body. Certainly the mechanism would be different in natural OBEs: that’s not the point: the point is that this experience can happen due to physiological effects.

    Reports of having different viewpoints are also potentially a result of the brain being confused: lacking normal proprioception input, it has a hard time situating a perception in the normal way in the normal place.

  4. First of all thank you all for commenting. I think this is really interesting. “Bad”, yes but still you must realize there is quite a bit of difference having a camera mounted in 3rd person perspective and vr goggles on, compared to having no camera and no goggles and your only visual input, the eyes, resting firmly in their sockets behind closed eyelids, and still people are reporting having a different viewpoint, a 3rd person viewpoint of themselves. I see no relevance for either confirming or denying that using this experiment. This experiment shows that it is possible to be immersed in an environment and psychologically moving the concept of one’s body into a different situation. Nothing more strange than being immersed in a good book, watching a movie or playing a 3rd person computer game. My god have no one heard of mirror neurons? The brain mimics what it sees. That’s how empathy works. Empathy in this case is extra strong because of the psychological connection between he perceived 3rd person body and one’s own body. The question I think is interesting is that of what appears to be extrasensory perception in OBE’s. This experiment does not tell us anything about that. True it tells us a bit about immersion in VR (which is interesting) but that’s all.

  5. Very interesting, I am not convinced either way about out of body experiences. Now I do know that VR works so this doesn’t surprise me much.

  6. “I see no relevance for either confirming or denying that using this experiment. ”

    The relevance is simply that such an experience is not only easy to generate, but apparently doesn’t even require serious injury to the brain: even merely tricking it is enough. And anything that can be caused by externally tricking the brain can be duplicated by just the brain itself. If you can generate this effect with mere external stimulus, the brain generating it due to some altered state of consciousness is even less of a mystery: those are far more radical ways of messing with the brain.

    “The question I think is interesting is that of what appears to be extrasensory perception in OBE’s. ”

    It would be interesting if it were true, but I’ve yet to see any really convincing evidence that there is such a phenomenon.

  7. I would have thought that the point of the experiments is just to show that the experience a subject has can be explained without the need for esp and other woo-woo. Brains under stress, under the influence of drugs, etc. can produce powerful experiences which are indeed natural and not supernatural.

  8. I suppose you have to experience it to have any convincing evidence about it. But that’s not scientific, is it.

    But just because I can show how one might mimic aspects of a certain phenomenon with technology or tricks or sleight of hand, does not mean that that is the *only* way it can occur, that it is merely *just* within the gray matter and there’s nothing else to it. We assume consciousness to be an emergent property of the brain…but there’s no more proof to that than the opposite assumption…that consciousness simply utilizes the brain but is not bound by it. Both of these are articles of faith, Bad.
    I’d put a lot more truck in the limited scientistic form of skepticism (as opposed to the classical skepticism which doubted everything, even the prevailing “reasonable” positions) if its proponents would just be honest about that.

  9. Thank you all for your input everyone!
    Even though I don’t concur with the conclusions of this experiment I’m glad that science dares to step at least with one foot into the unknown. It’s similar to my post regarding nuclear fusion experiments.

    Science needs to broaden it’s scope and embrace what it cannot understand. That is the only way of going forward.

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