There is a clear distinction between the field of science and humanities. Science is more about how things work, what are they made of, what all is happening around etc. Even though science explains the basic crux of one’s being, science cannot explain the various phenomenon and why they happen.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES
The out-of-body experience is a disturbing feeling which makes a person feel like he is floating outside his body. In some of the cases, he tends to feel like he is detached from his physical body and is looking at it from outside. The term ‘out-of-body experiences’ was first used by G.N.M. Tyrell in 1943 in ‘Apparitions’, a book that he wrote.
The term was later used by researchers like Robert Munroe, Celia Green etc for classifying experiences like soul travel, spirit walking, astral projections etc. The out-of-body experiences can be stimulated by dehydration, sleep, brain traumas, dissociative and psychedelic drugs, near-death experiences, electric stimulation of brain etc. Various people have reported feeling these experiences several times in their lives.
The psychologists along with neuroscientists believe that various psychological and neurological factors give rise to the dissociative experiences. Near death, experiences have seemed to trigger the most of reaction. Various researchers have connected the experience with hysteria and psychosis.
INDUCED OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES
By using hallucinogens like ketamine, LSD, MDA, DMT, psilocybin etc., out-of-body experiences can also be induced. It can also be mechanically induced by using several devices like God helmet, sensory overload, sensory deprivation, electrical stimulation of the brain, brainwave synchronisation by using audio and visual stimulation etc.
It leads to falling asleep without losing out on awareness. That means that the body continues to sleep while the mind keeps alert and working. The person feels like he is in a deep trance where he is pulled out from his own body, and wandering aimlessly. The body image gets distorted and there is depersonalisation. Out of body experiences can pose a threat to personal identity.
TECHNOLOGY AND THE OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIMENT
Bigna Lenggenhager, Swiss neuropsychologist, studied the experiences of neurological patients in order to understand the flexibility about the conception of one’s self. She uses out-of-body experiences as a model of investigation in order to work on the body’s self-awareness and brain’s multisensory integration. The out-of-body experience is a feeling of having one’s body and self-detached from each other. The out-of-body experiences are extremely important for the scientific investigation because they give hints about the study of self-consciousness. The basic aim is to find out the connection between self and body perception.
Evidence states that patients suffering from neurological disorders tend to feel out-of-body experiences more than others. The connection between self and body can be established with the help of scientific investigation. Dr Bigna developed an experimental concept that could help in stimulating the out-of-body experiences in healthy patients in order to study the concept of distorted self-consciousness.
She worked on finding out about one’s perception of the body along with the relevance of body’s self-consciousness. A philosopher joined her team to shed light on the subject. From him, she understood the philosophical concepts relating to self like selfhood- which needs to be investigated or manipulated by using scientific experiments.
In Blanke’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, she collaborated with Tej Tadi, a student with electronic engineering and virtual reality as a background. Tej helped in recreating a virtual environment which could showcase a projection of the backs of the volunteers in front of them.
The researchers then stroked the back of all the volunteers along with showing them a 3-dimensional image of the same. They were shown how their virtual backs were getting stroked at the same time. As a result, no out-of-body experiences were felt by the volunteers. They did not report seeing themselves from the perspective of some other location like outside their bodies. The researchers made the volunteers walk a few steps forward.
However, when the volunteers were asked to return to their original positions, they seemed perplexed regarding their positions. They felt like they had reached a midpoint between the virtual and real bodies. This experiment established that the relationship between brain, self and body can be established scientifically.
The experiment was possible because of virtual reality tools and neuroimaging techniques. The environment was multidisciplinary consisting of biologists, psychologists, medical doctors, engineers, computer scientists, physicists etc. By using such technology and panel of team members, the Dr Bigna was successful in recreating the out-of-body experience for the people.
Science is trying to find out more about self, one’s perception of self, self-consciousness etc to finally understand what an individual is from within.