Triggering an out-of-body experience could be easier than previously thought, new research suggests. By using synchronized heartbeats, scientists found that such an extracorporeal experience can happen quite effortlessly.
The study’s findings could pave the way to the development of new treatments for people suffering from self-perceptual disorders such as anorexia, for instance.
An out-of-body experience or OBE happens usually happens when someone experiences a feeling of viewing their body from the outside or of floating outside of their body. Whether you’re a skeptic or not, it’s important to note that most people don’t have such experiences because our brain is constantly processing information relayed by all our senses and that keeps us ‘grounded.’
But this brain control is actually easy to disrupt, the new study has found. The researchers determined that an out-of-body experience can be triggered by watching an image of you own body flashing simultaneously with your heartbeat.
A total of 17 subjects were fitted with virtual reality goggles and shown videos of their body from behind (made to look as if the body was about 6.5 feet in front of them). The image was then made to flash in time with the volunteer’s own heartbeats.
The result was that all those watching the image synchronized with their heartbeat actually began to identify more with the virtual self they were seeing rather than their own body. After experiencing the synchronized heartbeats for a few minutes, several participants reported that they were feeling as if they were in a different part of the room, away from their physical body.
Researchers say the experiment clearly shows how one’s experience of the self can be modified by tricking the mind with information about the internal state of the body – in this case a heartbeat. They hope the results will be able to help people who are suffering from various psychological problems that have to do with a distorted perception of the self.
The experiment could be adjusted so as to help people reconnect with their self, which would be especially useful in the treatment of anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder, in which the patients are stuck with a certain image they have of themselves and cannot change their perception.
[image via Gizmag]