People have long been fascinated by out-of-body experiences - are they just tricks of the mind or do they have some sort of spiritual significance?
Now new research has shed light on what it terms as 'extra-corporeal experiences' by studying the brain activity of a Canadian woman who claims she can drift outside her own body at will.
Scientists believe the left side of several areas of the brain associated with kinaesthetic imagery (the perception of the sensation of moving) are responsible for the sensation of being able to leave your body and float above it – and that more people might have similar experiences than thought.
Researchers at the University of Ottawa came across a psychology graduate who admitted she could have voluntary out-of-body experiences before she fell asleep.
The 24-year-old revealed she is able to see herself floating and rotating horizontally in the air above her body and can sometimes watch herself from above while remaining aware of her real body.
However, as she said she feels no emotions when she has the experiences, the scientists decided to classify her experiences as extra-corporeal experiences (ECE) as strong emotions such as shock, often accompany out-of-body experiences, Popular Science reported.
Andra Smith and Claude Messier used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to examine the student’s brain and believe she is the first person studied to have an ECE on demand without any brain abnormalities.
They discovered that the ECE involved a ‘strong deactivation of the visual cortex’.
But it also ‘activated the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery’ in the brain, which the scientists think is what cause mental representations of bodily movement.
While the researchers have acknowledged the rarity of finding someone to study who can have ECEs on demand, they believe that outer-body-experiences could be more common than thought.
This idea is based on the fact that the student thought that being able to float outside her body was not unusual.
According to the study: ‘The participant described her experience as one she began performing as a child when bored with “sleep time” at preschool.
She discovered she could elicit the experience of moving above her body and used this as a distraction during the time kids were asked to nap. She continued to perform this experience as she grew up assuming, as mentioned, that “everyone could do it.”’
‘She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,’ the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
The scientists think there is a ‘possibility that this phenomenon may have a significant incidence but [is] unreported because people do not think this is exceptional.’
They also theorised that ‘the ability might be present in infancy but is lost without regular practice.’
Source: Mail Online