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The brain is a complex and funny thing

Can you generate the illusion that your mind has left your body? This woman can.

After a class on out-of-body experiences, a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa came forward to researchers to say that she could have these voluntarily, usually before sleep. “She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,” wrote the scientists in a study describing the case, published in February in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

So what does the modern researcher do when someone has a weird perceptual sensation? Stick their head in an MRI and look at what’s happening.

To better understand what was going on, the researchers conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of her brain. They found that it surprisingly involved a “strong deactivation of the visual cortex.” Instead, the experience “activated the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,” such as mental representations of bodily movement.

Her experience, the scientists wrote, “really was a novel one.” But just maybe, not as novel as previously thought. If you are capable of floating out of your body, don’t keep it to yourself!

OK, I won’t. I used to be able to do that. When I was roughly 5 to 7 years old, and with declining frequency in years afterwards, I experienced this phenomenon routinely, and it was exactly as described. As I was drifting off to sleep, I’d have this peculiar sensation of heightened kinesthesia — I’d be acutely aware of my body, where every limb was, and I’d also lose my other senses — my hearing was muffled, with a kind of low hum, and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But at the same time, I also had an exaggerated consciousness of objects around me, so I’d literally feel like a small boy with an awareness expanding to fill the room, losing the disconnect between self and other. And then I’d fall asleep.

Even as a child, though, I didn’t describe it to myself as floating outside myself; I called them my “big head dreams”, because of the way my awareness of space increased. I might have been annoyed at my bedtime, but I didn’t will myself to float out into the living room and watch TV, ghostlike, with my parents. I saw it as an odd shift in the focus of my attention as I drifted off to sleep, a kind of hallucination, nothing more.

I enjoyed the sensation and would voluntarily succumb to it, but it occurred less often as I got older. Probably the last time I experienced it was in my teens, but I still vividly recall what it felt like.

It was not out-of-body travel. Rebecca Watson has a reply to the article, and clarifies for the gullible that no, scientists aren’t studying out-of-body experiences, they’re looking at sensory processing and mental imagery.

The word “hallucination” appears ten times in the case study yet zero times in the Popular Science article. Because of this, a naive person who reads the PopSci article but not the original paper may walk away with the belief that the brain scans show what happens when a person actually leaves their body, as opposed to showing what happens when a person feels as though they are leaving their body. Again, the difference seems small but is actually quite large: the former describes a study that would be at home on an episode of Coast to Coast or Fringe or those episodes of Family Matters where Urkel did science experiments, and the latter would be at home in a scientific journal to be used as the basis for further study and experimentation.

Move along, it’s all mundane brain science. No spirits involved.

Comments

  1. prfesser says

    Yep, happened to me too. A wonderful thing about the internet: our purportedly extraordinary experiences end up being rather ordinary and amenable to rational explanation.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    I didn’t RTFA, nor Rebecca’s reply, but “hallucination” doesn’t seem like the right word: a shift in perception occurred is all. Some senses were heightened, and others dampened. The fact that some people then attempt to explain it as souls leaving bodies, or whatever, doesn’t make it a hallucination or a delusion. It’s just a terrible explanation of an actual phenomenon.

    Interesting stuff.

  3. karmacat says

    I used to have that feeling as a child when I was sick but I found it rather disturbing. The feeling is what psychiatry calls depersonalization or derealization under the umbrella term dissociation. Dissociation can happen in regular life. such as when you are driving and have gone 5 miles and not been aware of it

  4. Bicarbonate is back says

    It’s too bad the Popular Science article didn’t make that important distinction. I’ve had these experiences too and last night, my mother who was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two weeks ago, saw five men asleep in her bed.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    The out-of-body experience has also been seen, in yon literature, when Dr. Olaf Blanke was doing some direct brain stimulation work (ahead of neurosurgery, if memory serves)–whenever a particular area was stimulated, the patient reported an OOBE; only that particular area out of several stimulated, and every time that area was stimulated, so very strong evidence. Blanke, quite understandably, began focusing on the phenomenon after that, and now even has a TED talk out there somewhere on OOBEs.

  6. mykroft says

    I remember being able to induce this state when I was younger (pre-30). I used to be into ESP, astral projection and the like, and had read a number of books about it. Some of the techniques in those books did lead to a sense of leaving my body, but it took some time and effort to reach that state, and it usually happened just as I was falling asleep.

    Personally, I find lucid dreaming to be more interesting. While it lasts, the world conjured up by the sleeping brain seems more vivid and interactive than what I remember from my “astral trips”. Either way it’s the brain fooling itself, filling in the missing sensory information and telling itself a story, much like NDEs.

    The lucid dreams seem to have stopped as I’ve gotten older. Which is a shame; I loved to fly in dreams.

  7. Kelseigh says

    Those “big head dreams” sound really familiar, like something I’ve done myself quite a bit over the years and probably could right now if I felt like it. But not as dreams but as a waking phenomenon. It always felt less like I was leaving my body so much as an expansion of what was there and a change in scale between myself and, say, a coffee cup or whatever it was I was focusing on. It was like I was becoming enormous while the object shrank back, but again there was no feeling at all of being outside my body.

    If I recall correctly there were also opposite experiences where my perception seemed to become minuscule while the object in question became like a wall, although those were more rare and not quite so vivid.

    I had a couple of pagans think it was some sort of astral thing or something, and cautioned me against it for some poorly explained reasons, but I never got that impression either. It was definitely an inside-the-body thing that to me now sounds a bit like what’s being described here.

  8. Donnie says

    This experience is what enabled / enables me to be decent at sports. In high school and college, I could do field events (decathelete in college) and evaluate my body position while doing the event and make changes (mostly during high jump). I was very aware of various parts of my body while jumping, and adjust / correct the next time. I have a talent to get into a sport and within a couple months go from abject badness into pretty damn good. of course, a lot is just from experience, trial-and-eroor, but a lot is the ability to evaluate / be aware of my body while playing.

    it’s pretty cool, but nothing mysterious or supernatural.

  9. karmacat says

    I used to stare at myself in the mirror until I couldn’t recognize myself. It was like saying the same word over and over until it loses it’s meaning

  10. davidnangle says

    I’ve recently had something similar, which is difficult to describe. It was like my consciousness split into two, with a rational, dispassionate me observing the day-to-day me in the middle of a conversation. The sensation was that the rational me was aware of everything, while the day-to-day mind wasn’t aware of the observation. And the rational me was not impressed by the mental performance of the rest of me. Strange.

    When I was young, awake in bed with a fever, I got to enjoy a virtual VCR in my head. I could, quite consciously, think of a cartoon episode I liked, and see it played out with perfect clarity, perfect detail, on the blank wall beside my head. I knew that this was weird, but was very happy to have this diversion. I was quite sad when the fever broke and I lost the magic.

    Perhaps related, I’ve had the ability since then to suddenly think of a scene from a movie or TV show… something I’d seen before and remembered fondly… only to see that exact moment on TV within a couple days. Happens at least once a month. I must use this power only for good!

  11. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    I love that they were able to get a look at the actual brain processes associated with this.

    I’ve occasionally had the “big head dreams” while falling asleep–they happened more frequently as a child, but still pop up now and then as an adult–but that’s not the only time I’ve experienced something like that. The same sensation is also associated with my migraines, to the point that during a particularly bad migraine episode I might go for several days feeling like that. It stops being an interesting experience after several hours.

    The closest I’ve come to voluntarily entering a similar state outside of meditation has been in response to extremely stressful situations, such as when I was being assaulted and thought I might die. I was simultaneously hyper aware of what my body was doing in defense while feeling as though the “I” in this scene was a couple of feet away, just chilling out and admiring the effort. It was like unlocking a superpower.

  12. Socio-gen, something something... says

    I’ve always done this; it’s my pre-sleep relaxation ritual (and I’ve always assumed it was responsible for the “who am I, where am I?” confusion I have when I first wake up). It happens when I’m wide-awake as well, though less frequently, but I just thought I had a somewhat-useful, not particularly interesting spatial ability that allows me visualize my surroundings from various perspectives in a way that sometimes feels a little more live-action.

  13. ChasCPeterson says

    I’ve had the ability since then to suddenly think of a scene from a movie or TV show… something I’d seen before and remembered fondly… only to see that exact moment on TV within a couple days.

    your superpower is called “confirmation bias”.

    …and what’s wrong with “mundane brain science”?

  14. astro says

    the first thing i thought of when i read this was, “that’s just like LSD!” so i’m curious, how does this person’s fMRI scan compare to that of someone who’s on an acid trip?

    i can guess that there will be strong similarities. i know, because one time i took some acid and went to pluto.

  15. mnb0 says

    I had Out of Body Experiences between 15 and 25. I don’t miss them and abandoned dualism when I learned that science had an excellent material explanation for them – one that nicely described those experiences.

  16. Blueaussi says

    karmacat @ #3

    I had the same experience as a child. When I had a fever, especially if it was for more than 24 hours or so and I had been sleeping too much to be tired. I would close my eyes, feel like I was sorta drifting around the room, and if I could just crack through the crust of walls, I could go drifting on outside. I always put it down to fever dreams, and I grew out of it by the time I was a teenager.

  17. davidnangle says

    ChasCPeterson @ 15, you may have been waiting around for some comment similar to mine which could be interpreted to mean “confirmation bias.” But you knew it would happen, didn’t you?

  18. says

    I’m not sure if this is what’s being described, but I’ve always had the occasional experience of everything around me seeming to be at a great distance, yet somehow more focussed. and it’s always combined with a kind of dream-like disconnect from not only my body, but my decision-making process too. Some part of me is still making (what seem like, at least) perfectly good decisions, but that part’s over there somewhere, and I’m just watching the resulting actions and even emotions, sometimes, from afar.

    I’m never outside my body looking in, though. Just “walled off” in a little compartment, looking out.

  19. woozy says

    Hmmph.

    no, scientists aren’t studying out-of-body experiences, they’re looking at sensory processing and mental imagery

    Well, DUH!

    I kind of feel Rebecca Watson and comments like this aren’t giving the average reader enough credit. I’d prefer to live in a world where Popular Science assumes its readers can recognize “mundane brain science” and doesn’t assume the readers are a bunch of superstitious yahoos clammering for evidence of supernatural woo.

    Of course, I may very well be underestimating the prevalence of stupid people. But supernatural woo clammerers will clammer no matter how PopSci words its article. There’s no need for PopSci to talk down to its readers. At least I hope not.

    PopSci title: “The Woman Who Can Will Herself Out of Her Body”.
    Watson’s correction: “The Woman Who Thinks She Can Will Herself Out of Her Body”.
    My correction of Watson’s correction: “The Woman Who Can Will Herself into a Condition in which it appears to her as though she is out of her body (although she knows that is not actually the case)”

  20. inflection says

    I used to, on occasion, while nearing sleep, have the impression of hearing the most wonderful, long-running symphonies. It seemed like they could go on for several minutes, with complex musical structure. Lovely.

    Almost never happens these days, alas. I used to be in band, so I would have been hearing orchestrated music for an hour or more 5 days a week. Dropping that might be the reason I haven’t heard them as much in the years since.

  21. Sastra says

    When I was very young I would sit next to my wooden crib and spin one of the springs on the mechanism which allowed the side to shift lower. I’d do this over and over again, raising it up the metal bar and letting it drop, until something very odd happened to my consciousness: it was as if my focused awareness became hard, like an actual thing. It’s difficult to describe what this experience felt like, but I was probably putting myself into some sort of hypnotic brain state.

    I find all these stories here fascinating. Not just as anomalous experiences themselves, but because we have had them … and we are atheists.

    The common assumption among those who believe in mystical awareness is that once you feel an OBE or similar encounter with the numinous, once you go through it it yourself, then you just KNOW that our minds have an amazing capacity to detach from the body. Spiritual people have the epistemic right to believe in mind/brain dualism (or idealistic monism) because they have had personal, direct evidence which is veridical.

    Atheists either don’t have such episodes, or go through ridiculous hoops to deny their own experiences.

    So I’m also bothered that the fact that these sensations, while genuine sensations, are not genuine evidence that the mind can leave the body is apparently being downplayed by the media. Unless the reports come out with the science front and center the mystically inclined (religious and/or spiritually) will grab on gratefully to what looks like confirming evidence and smugly assume that any clarifications we may make are just desperate attempts to salvage our materialist world view.

    But really — if this WAS clear evidence for such a claim, wouldn’t there have been tests or experiments to see how well and how far the mind can travel to see what is otherwise hidden? Wouldn’t that be an earthshaking, paradigm-shifting focus of the discovery? Of course. But still, the woosters will grab on to the conclusion that there are measurable brain states during an OBE and act as if this is an astonishing fact which proves they were right all along about dualism! When the more astonishing thing would be if OBEs or other anomalous experiences did NOT show up on an MRI.

  22. says

    This happens to me when I’m sick. Not quite sure how to explain it any better than you did, but for Mr it’s more like I feel tiny with hands the size of a car. It makes perfect sense in light of the sensory homunculus.

  23. Paul K says

    Sastra, 23:

    When I was very young I would sit next to my wooden crib and spin one of the springs on the mechanism which allowed the side to shift lower. I’d do this over and over again, raising it up the metal bar and letting it drop, until something very odd happened to my consciousness: it was as if my focused awareness became hard, like an actual thing. It’s difficult to describe what this experience felt like, but I was probably putting myself into some sort of hypnotic brain state.

    Wow! I did this exact same thing. And I forgot about it until my son was born when I was 40. Then I did it again with his crib, and the memory the sound brought back was intense. He never did this himself, but would stare, with a look of great concentration for a baby, at the round turnings on the wooden spindles of the crib sides. He often rocked back and forth while doing so, and looked like he was working hard on some mental problem. He would often have a sort of fanatical smile while in this state. He doesn’t remember doing it, though, so who knows what was going on inside his head?

    I can still consciously disconnect in a way: If I’m in an otherwise quiet room with some kind of white noise in the background, I can make myself hear music. It’s hard to explain, but I can call up recordings that I haven’t heard in years, and ‘hear’ every note. I have to actively force myself to ‘relax’ something in my head in order to get this to slowly start happening, and it is not as easy to do as it used to be. It doesn’t seem at all like memory, though I know it is. Because it is memory, there’s no way to tell just how accurate it is, but since the internet has made it possible, I’ve listened to the actual recordings afterwards, and the two seem identical (though, again, that could just be my mind tricking me). When doing this, I have accurately recalled words to songs that I barely remembered having heard.

    Also, some of the most intense mental images I have from my childhood, of things that happened to me, are seen in my mind from a distance. My brother once hit me on the head with a board. I was probably four, and he would have been five. He didn’t know it, but the board had a nail sticking out, and the point went into my scalp. I don’t remember the pain, but I have a little movie in my memory: I’m looking at the scene from our back porch, and see myself and my brother in front of the garage, as my brother swings the board down on me. I’ve had this memory for decades, and assume it came originally in a dream afterwards. But my memory of this event is of watching from the outside.

    I’m glad that this sort of thing is being actively studied scientifically. I want the pseudo-scientific claims to be taken away from the mystics and new-agers. I think folks who have these kind of experiences will be more open about sharing them if they are shed of their kooky associations.

  24. woozy says

    Never did the out of body business but I’ve done the heightened hypnotic state that Sastra described as well as some jumps and skips in time and space (sometimes I get a disjoint snap back into my perspective from being somewhere away in a different perspective; once walking down a street I realized I was going to walk right into a guy so I snapped to a stop and almost jumped out of my skin and then realized the guy was a good six feet away from me [he was really pissed off at me for jumping] and another time I got a sense that a woman had walked by me and then, snap, she was back in front of me walking toward me; I think I perceived this because I worked myself into a hypnotic state where my perceptions were enlarged and I unconsciously assumed that at a such a perspective her perceived speed would indicate she would pass by the point where I perceived myself to be [six feet closer] very quickly when in reality she was a good deal further away) and I’ve experienced “the hag in the night” (waking up in the night and knowing there is a very real and intensely evil presence in the room looking directly at you). A friend you to talk of how an a lazy afternoon he saw a fly drift into tighter and tighter circles and then spontaneously disintegrate into a puff. I, personally, think he was watching the fly and worked himself into a hypnotic state during which the fly simply flew away and then he emerged from the state where he “spliced” his disjointed perceptions of time together.

    However I never felt that any of these feelings were “supernatural” or “dualist” even as a child. They were just a “weird” different feeling. It’s not that as an atheist so I don’t believe these happen. As a skeptic I don’t believe it when they happen to other people (“that’s just crazy”) but when I feel them myself I don’t “just KNOW that our minds have an amazing capacity to detach from the body” but instead just feel, “wow, what a mental disconnect, that was really weird”.

  25. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    All 12 years of public school were pure hell for me; I was an undiagnosed autistic — which, being that it was the early ’60’s, wasn’t even a thing — so my scholastic brilliance and my utter lack of social awareness or social skills, plus my father being a minister, made every day at school a gauntlet of social and physical warfare. As a result, from Grade 2 through Grade 12 I frequently jogged to school in an unconscious state.

    I would enter a dissociative condition, set a favourite piece of music to “play” in my head, and go to school, crossing several majors streets, complete with controlled intersections, and come back to consciousness when I was near the school, having absolutely no memory of the preceding 15 minutes.

    I could not will this state, but it happened a lot, and it was always a relief from the hysterical anxiety I felt every day going to school, a place of fear, punishment, and utterly confusing mixed messages.

    This stopped completely when I began University, and I haven’t had it since.

  26. Callinectes says

    For me, it wasn’t serene at all. It was like the whole universe was bearing down on me. Like I was falling, and I was going to land everywhere at once. The hum was an oppressive thrum, terrifyingly loud. I would become aware of the blood moving through my head until I felt like it might explode, and sometimes I would hear cruel laughter. Once there was a face. All in all it was quite exhilarating, but not great to fall asleep to.

  27. David Marjanović says

    Wow.

    Bookmarked.

    When I was young, awake in bed with a fever, I got to enjoy a virtual VCR in my head. I could, quite consciously, think of a cartoon episode I liked, and see it played out with perfect clarity, perfect detail, on the blank wall beside my head. I knew that this was weird, but was very happy to have this diversion. I was quite sad when the fever broke and I lost the magic.

    Photographic memory only while having that fever? I didn’t know this existed either.

    BTW, I wonder if what Chas called confirmation bias could be déjà vu – a known psychological condition.

    He didn’t know it, but the board had a nail sticking out, and the point went into my scalp. I don’t remember the pain, but I have a little movie in my memory: I’m looking at the scene from our back porch, and see myself and my brother in front of the garage, as my brother swings the board down on me. I’ve had this memory for decades, and assume it came originally in a dream afterwards. But my memory of this event is of watching from the outside.

    …Isn’t that rather your memory of how you imagined the event after you were told about it?

    I’ve experienced “the hag in the night” (waking up in the night and knowing there is a very real and intensely evil presence in the room looking directly at you)

    Sleep paralysis.

  28. David Marjanović says

    Forgot…

    clammer

    Oh, thanks for showing me how clamor is pronounced. I wasn’t sure. :-)

  29. says

    Had a similar experience about 20 years ago. I was using meditation to help me relax from an extremely stressful 4 months working around 14 hours a day on a major project. I had meditated several times during the day for roughly half to one hour at a time. That night I woke from an extremely vivid dream in which I was somewhere else. Rather than roll over and go back to sleep I decided to meditate and see if I could continue the dream while I was awake. Sure enough the “dream” returned as vividly as previously. I knew exactly where I really was and it was not where I was in the “dream.” I continued for a while then tried to manipulate the “dream.” As soon as I tried that it “vanished” and no amount of trying could restore it. I have never been able to do something like that since but for some time used the meditation technique to shut down migraine headaches.

  30. woozy says

    You know what “mundane brain science” I’d like to see studied more? The Ouija board and its ideomotor response. This is one of the cases where the skeptic attitude drives me nuts. It seems to be “Pffff…. The planchette is guided by unconscious muscular exertions in a dissociative state in which consciousness is somehow divided or cut off from some aspects of the individual’s normal cognitive, motor, or sensory functions. It’s not spirits or ghosts so it’s totally mundane and boring” when it strikes me that a more appropriate response should be “Holy Fucking Shit! It’s a dissociative state! And it’s so extreme it actually can affect your *hands* and *fine motor control*. Holy Crap! It’s an ideomotor response! That shit is fucking *REAL* after all! And ANYone can produce it with just a piece of wood and markings and a second person! And it actually spells out sentences of things that are going through the operators’ heads at the time!!! This is fucking *AMAZING*!!!”

    …. or is that just me?

    Ideomoter response. Just *think* of the things we can study about dissociative states. I mean doesn’t anyone else find it amazing?

    C’mon?!?!

  31. rowanvt says

    My fun mental trick is something similar to an OBE. It’s minor form that I can do at any time is to alter my perception of gravity. Right now I am making myself feel as if the entire room is actually upside down and therefore myself, my desk, and the cats are all actually on the ‘ceiling’. It’s major form I can only do with my eyes closed. I discovered it while attempting to ‘astral project’, back when I believed in that stuff. I call it ‘tunneling’ as I will feel like I am flying at breakneck speed and my mind will create images of caverns, mine shafts, dense forests, etc that I am traveling through, around, and under. Attempting to create my own pathway, or travel down a different tunnel opening that the one I’m automatically going down is mentally painful. It feels like I’m being pulled along to a destination that I never reach, and not going that direction is ‘wrong’. I’ll even feel like I’m digging claws and wings into the sides of a tunnel or a tree, and a physical force is pulling me back to the main path.

  32. rowanvt says

    Don’t ask why the apostrophes are there in its. It was an 11 hour day at work, and apparently I cannot think anymore.

  33. says

    All of this analysis egregiously neglects the fact that someone is having these experiences. This someone may experience sitting on the couch watching TV, or the mind appearing separate from the body; and the latter is in no wise any more or less remarkable than the former, except insofar as it offers, perhaps, a clearer opportunity to notice how spectacularly wonderful it is that there exists anyone at all to have any experiences whatsoever.

  34. anteprepro says

    And like clockwork, Vijen swoops in on a post about about the brain in order to shart out his usual inane bafflegab. How furiously do the colorless green ideas sleep this time?

  35. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Tis mimsey, the Vijenian bafflegab, for it doth flow like a veritable crop-rotation of engineering manuals.

    Ah, that sounds much more rational than the Vijenian bafflegab…

  36. woozy says

    Don’t ask why the apostrophes are there in its. It was an 11 hour day at work, and apparently I cannot think anymore.

    Completely off topic:

    I’m *very* angry at my 1st grade teacher for letting me get away with not learning this. I figured that apostrophe-s was possessive as “woozy’s dog” means “the dog belonging to woozy”, therefore “it’s dog” would mean “the dog belonging to it”. Perfectly reasonable to my first grade mind. And ****NOBODY**** ever corrected me. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in *college* that I ever heard that it was “its” not “it’s”. And it didn’t make any sense. But I learned it was correct so I did it religiously amd correctly even though I had to figure it was utterly counterintuitive and capricious. It wasn’t until I was in my late *thirties* that it suddenly occurred to me that “it” is not a proper noun; it’s a pronoun. And much like the pronoun him and her, the possessive forms would be its, his, and hers and not it’s, him’s, and her’s. And I’m very angry because my 1st grade mind would have been completely capable of understanding that.

  37. Nutmeg says

    In the past few months, as I’ve been paying more attention to cool and/or annoying things my brain can do, I’ve occasionally had very vivid memories as I’m drifting off to sleep. Including details I didn’t think I still knew.

    Not too long ago, I had a memory of the kitchen in the community centre where I went to Brownies and dance classes as a child. I haven’t been in that kitchen in 15 years, and there was nothing at all remarkable about it. But there it was in my mind, with cupboards and drawers and closets in all the correct places, for no reason that I’ve figured out.

    The first time this happened, it was a memory of our old dog, who’s been gone for two years now. I was patting her and noticing, in detail, all of the bumps and lumps and skin tags that old dogs accumulate. It seemed very real, but at the same time I was aware that I was actually half-asleep.

    Whenever this is happening, I’ve been like, “Oh, cool! This seems kind of like lucid dreaming. I wonder what I can do with this?” and then I try for more detail or a broader range. And that seems to push it too far, and I wake up. Unfortunately I don’t get to choose the memories, but so far it’s all been neutral or pleasant. The memory of our old dog was really kind of special, and it still makes me smile.

  38. knowsu says

    This is strongly reminiscent of some of my experiences during or before sleep. As a child aged approx four, it was quite frightening. Family member would refer to my “night terrors” which, I suspect were the same experience. I’m now forty one now and still experience something similar a couple of times a year. It’s no longer frightening of course and I try to “ride it out” for as long a possible to enjoy the spaced-out feel. In trying to equate it to an everyday experience, I would probably describe it as sitting on an invisible acrobats swing inside the middle of an unimaginable huge sphere. The usual five senses are no longer employed, there’s simply a sense of unlimited vastness.

    Not once have I arrived that the conclusion that it is attributable to some out-of-body experience or astral projection.

  39. prfesser says

    I really CAN dissociate my mind from my body. Anyone can. It could be demonstrated in front of cameras and a panel of impartial, objective observers. And all would confirm the phenomenon.

    Unfortunately I could do it only once. And it’d be messy and would hurt a lot. At least for a little while. And I wouldn’t be good for much after the demonstration.

    Prfesser
    “Hey, Ma, I can dissociate my mind from my body!” — William Wallace’s last thought in Braveheart

  40. unclefrogy says

    all of these experiences as described are important and they have significance. I have had various sensory experiences some I would say shared things with others who called them out of body experiences.One of the big problem we have with them is in interpretation of them. I have friends who swear that they were religious experiences in which they experienced “GOD”. For me I understand my own experiences just that sensory experiences. it is the brain processing itself and the sensory inputs in a different way other than the usual way, I almost said normal but that would imply abnormality which I do not mean to imply.
    Our senses are only sensitive to certain stimuli, we only hear in a particular frequency band and see in a limited frequency range. Other animals see and hear differently some see heat. Do we know how the other creatures really experience the world. I would suspect that birds and bats have a much higher developed sense of depth than us ground dwelling apes
    If it is a stable kind of input and a regular processing wouldn’t the effect be in the end still be a useful functional interpretation. We get into trouble when we try to make interpretations of these anomalous experiences.
    I think it is on that realization in part that we have devised the scientific methods and the technological equipment to make impersonal measurements because we can not always tell if what we are seeing is true or not.

    it is fun to try an imagine what a dogs world would be

    uncle frogy

  41. Juliana Ewing says

    I highly recommend Oliver Sacks’s book Hallucinations to anyone interested in this thread.

  42. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    As I was drifting off to sleep, I’d have this peculiar sensation of heightened kinesthesia — I’d be acutely aware of my body, where every limb was, and I’d also lose my other senses — my hearing was muffled, with a kind of low hum, and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But at the same time, I also had an exaggerated consciousness of objects around me, so I’d literally feel like a small boy with an awareness expanding to fill the room, losing the disconnect between self and other.

    I used to get this when I took ketamine. It was a lot of fun, and often followed by other hallucinations.

    These days, as the boringly sober adult I now am, I occasionally get it when falling asleep, but very rarely and not as strongly.

  43. davidnangle says

    Okay, one last Stupid Brain Trick from me:

    In my early teens, I woke up from a recurring, pleasant dream. It was about crawling around in the dark secret passage in the old house I grew up in, that I had moved away from years before. But thinking casually about the dream, I started to realize something. That dark passage didn’t exist and couldn’t exist within the architecture of that house. But it was as real in my memory as the other parts of the house. I can still remember it as clearly as the living room.

    So, the recurring dream set up a cool, fictional location in my head as a very real memory. This lead me to doubt many things.

  44. Krishan Bhattacharya says

    ” I also had an exaggerated consciousness of objects around me, so I’d literally feel like a small boy with an awareness expanding to fill the room, losing the disconnect between self and other.”

    This is what some people call a ‘spiritual’ experience. You can actually intentionally set yourself into this more again, through the technique of ‘vipassana’ meditation.