Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Well, that about wraps it up for out of body experiences Via Althouse:
Out-of-Body Experience? Your Brain Is to Blame
They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.

Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.

But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.

Technically, of course, they're not really proving that being able to reproduce an OOBE by stimulating this part of the brain is entirely equivalent to a "real" one, but it sure does go a long way towards explaining why people experience such things. There's always the small sample size and lack of controls inherent in this sort of thing -- you can't go around opening up the heads of a random sample of people and try reproducing it in all of them after all -- but it seems a rather intuitively satisfying start to a coherent explanation.