Out of body experiences are normally associated with paranormal… activity and hallucinogenic drugs but scientists yesterday claimed they can be induced in laboratories.
New virtual reality techniques which confuse signals between parts of the brain can create the illusion that someone has actually (left) their body.
The discovery could provide clues about real out-of-body experiences, which have been reported in people who suffer migraines and epilepsy.
The technique could also be used for entertainment in computer games where players are transported into a virtual environment.
During tests, volunteers put on goggles and were shown 3D images of themselves from behind.
When their chests were prodded at the same time as their virtual self, they felt as if they had left their bodies and were watching themselves.
Dr Henrik Ehrsson, who led the study at University College London, said: ‘This was a fascinating experience for the participants – it felt absolutely real for them and was not scary.
‘Out of body experiences have fascinated mankind for millennia. Their existence has raised fundamental questions about the relationship between human consciousness and the body, and has been much discussed in theology, philosophy and psychology.’
Other tests carried out at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, involved volunteers’ backs being stroked at the same time as their virtual body.
Many believed that the image they were looking at was in fact their own body.
But Dr Peter Brugger, from Zurich University Hospital in Switzerland, said the tests fell-short of re creating the real thing because they lacked an ‘enormous compelling sensation of separation’ from the body.