Sunday, August 26, 2007

Editorial: OBE's induced in the lab?

Several days ago, the University College London reported on a study recently published in Science, in which neuroscientist Dr Henrik Ehrsson claims to have induced out-of-body experiences in volunteers in his lab. If you read the article, you might see that this is a clever study that provides great insight into our bodily perceptions and sense of self. But have these scientists really induced the same sort of out-of-body experiences that have been studied by parapsychologists for decades? Poking around the Internet for the blogsphere's reaction, it looks like I'm not alone when I say 'no'. Commentaries at The Daily Grail and Mind Hacks illuminate the issue, as well as providing excellent additional links.

I don't know if we could iron out a 'classic' symptomology of OBE's, but the most central elements of these experiences include a loss of bodily sensation and the image of being disembodied. The experimenters at the UCL neuroscience lab provided volunteers with this image of disembodiment; they did not induce it. And the manipulation of stroking volunteers' chest and back areas suggest that participants still experienced bodily sensations during the sessions. While the participants did experience the sensation of being out of their bodies, calling this an induction of the out-body-experience, the same experience that according to the press release "has been much discussed in theology, philosophy and psychology," is an overgeneralization.

It remains to be seen if the research at UCL can help provide an explanatory model for spontaneous OBE's. In the meantime, if there is any sort of application for this particular study, we would be more likely see it in the next release of the Nintendo Wii before theologists, philosophers, and psychologists start rewriting their textbooks. This is, of course, just my opinion on the topic, but PPB readers are welcome to chime in with their own...

4 comments:

R.E. said...

Nice editorial. I put the same opinion in my french blog (http://metapsychique.blogspot.com/2007/08/une-sortie-hors-du-corps-artificielle.html), with the example of wii too !

Congratulations for this blog.

Anonymous said...

The scientists used video cameras and virtual reality goggles to induce the illusion that a person was outside his body.

What they didn't explain was how people with flat lined EEG's lying on an operating table with no pulse can have this same experience without video cameras or virtual reality goggles while at the same time seeing and hearing things that could only have been percieved from a different location.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
What they didn't explain was how people with flat lined EEG's lying on an operating table with no pulse can have this same experience without video cameras or virtual reality goggles while at the same time seeing and hearing things that could only have been percieved from a different location.

First off, the evidence doesn't show that OBE/NDE's are experienced with flat-line EEG's, these experiences could just as easily be happening when the brain is "shutting-down" or created upon "starting-up." The timing of these evens is the problem. There is also the issue of brain activity not detectable by current patient in the clinical setting technology. Also, the reports about OBE experiences which report things from out-of-body perspectives are countered by ones that are not! Both these could be explained are creations of a hallucinating brain. The OBE stuff id very unimpressive.

M.C. said...

First off, the evidence doesn't show that OBE/NDE's are experienced with flat-line EEG's, these experiences could just as easily be happening when the brain is "shutting-down" or created upon "starting-up."

No, when verifiable events are reported during the flatline EEG, that rules out the experience being "created" during some other time.


Also, the reports about OBE experiences which report things from out-of-body perspectives are countered by ones that are not!

No.

The fact that verifiable external events are recounted (often happening in areas far from the NDE patient's body) is proof that the patient is able to experience reality external to the body.

The fact that sometimes people having an OBE report imaginary features is irrelevant.

One does not need to prove that all crows are white in order to establish the existence of white crows.

The OBE stuff id very unimpressive.

Unimpressive to you, because of confirmation bias