Out-of-body experiences linked to neural instability and biases in body representation

July 12, 2011

Researchers from the Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, have linked out-of-body (OBE) experiences to neural instabilities in the brain’s temporal lobes and to errors in the body’s sense of itself.

The researchers tested a group of individuals, including some “OBEers,” for their predisposition to unusual perceptual experiences, and found that the OBEers reported significantly more of a particular type of experience associated with neuroelectrical anomalies in the temporal lobes of the brain, as well as those associated with distortions in the processing of body-based information.

These findings suggest that even in healthy people, striking hallucinations can and do occur. These may reflect anomalies in neuroelectrical activity of the temporal lobes, as well as biases of the “body representation” in the brain.

Ref.: Braithwaite, et al., Cognitive correlates of the spontaneous out-of-body experience (OBE) in the psychologically normal population: Evidence for an increased role of temporal-lobe instability, body-distortion processing, and impairments in own-body transformations, 2010; [DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2010.05.002]