Scientists Create Out-of-Body Illusion


Have you ever had an out-of-body experience, or felt like you were watching yourself from the sidelines? Neuroscientists at the Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden just replicated that feeling in the lab, giving 15 individuals the illusion of teleportation outside the body.

In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine was awarded for the discovery of "GPS-like 'place cells'" in a rat's hippocampus, that "signal the rat's position in the room." But it's still unknown whether humans' brains utilize the same system. To understand how the human mind places itself in a physical space, the scientists placed the participants in a brain scanner and outfitted them with a head-mounted display which would give them the perspective of someone standing in the room. The new view showed both a stranger lying down in the foreground and the participant's own body—still in the brain scanner—in the background.

A scientist then touched the participant and the stranger's bodies simultaneously—all viewed by the individual in the scanner. You can see how the experiment worked in the video below:

According to Arvid Guterstam, the lead author of the study, "In a matter of seconds, the brain merges the sensation of touch and visual input from the new perspective, resulting in the illusion of owning the stranger’s body and being located in that body’s position in the room, outside the participant’s physical body.”

Using this same technique, the participant was "placed" in multiple locations throughout the room. With pattern recognition techniques, the neuroscientists examined the brain activity, "and show[ed] that the perceived self-location can be decoded from activity patterns in specific areas in the temporal and parietal lobes."

[h/t ScienceDaily]