Are out-of-body experiences real?
Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) exist and have been studied and recorded for hundreds of years. Surveys show that about 10% of the general population has experienced an OBE, whether induced via drugs or G-forces, or as associated with near-death experiences. Many people think OBEs are fringe science and more in the spiritual realm, but at some point, the anecdotal evidence becomes analyzable data.
Theoretically, it's easy to prove the existence of human consciousness outside of the physical body, as OBEs require a 'driver' to travel. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed--it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. Science demonstrates through electrocardiography that the body contains energy running through it. We can classify this energy as a kind of consciousness, understanding that it can be manipulated during OBEs and will eventually go somewhere when we die. This redirection of energy or consciousness explains why many people (especially in the New Age Astral movement) experience a phenomenon called veridical perception, which is when 'the viewer is able to literally float out of their body and witness something or someone that they could not have otherwise seen.'
Medical science is still unraveling the mysteries of the human body and brain. New body systems like the endocannabinoid and bacteria like those used in microbiome therapy have only recently been discovered. So the research on the temporoparietal junction and its relation to OBEs will surely provide more scientific data as our tools for understanding increase. It's foolish to believe that the proven energy inside our bodies cannot be converted or transferred in other ways, just like light, heat, or motion.
It's easy to take for granted that ordinary experiences of body awareness are products of a collaboration between several complex systems. One's brain synthesizes visual, tactile, and motor-sensory information to form the illusion of one distinct in-body perspective. Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) challenge this familiar perspective and can feel unsettling; however, they are natural products of a brain struggling to process and integrate the raw data necessary for maintaining one's normal perception of self.
OBEs appear in medical records from at least the late 19th century, yet accurate methods of mapping and viewing brains in real-time have only existed for a few decades. In this brief period, scientists have been able to induce OBEs in labs through electrical stimulation, localizing the experience to the brain's area responsible for integrating visual and vestibular input. Brain imaging has shown activation of these neural regions in patients who reported being able to induce OBEs at will.
It is unsurprising, then, that OBEs are three times more common among people who suffer from vestibular disorders like vertigo, tinnitus, or ear infections than healthy individuals. Similarly, conditions such as migraines and epilepsy, which disrupt sensory input, and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, which can interfere with proper integration of information, have been associated with OBEs.
Near-death experiences (NDEs) often involve OBEs. In a study of cardiac arrest patients and similar NDE investigations, targets that could be seen only from an out-of-body perspective could not be accurately identified or recalled by those who reported viewing the scenes above, thus supporting the conclusion that no real detachment from one's body occurs.
- An out-of-body experience is “an experience in which a person has a feeling of being separated from his or her body and able to look at himself or herself and other people from the outside.”
- A near-death experience involves “an occurrence in which a person comes very close to dying and has memories of a spiritual experience (such as meeting dead friends and family members or seeing a white light) during the time when death was near.”
- Researchers claim that about 10% of the general population has experienced an out-of-body sensation at least once.
- In 2007, a neuroscientist from University College London was the first to induce an out-of-body experience in a lab setting.