Studies Report Inducing Out-of-Body Experience by SANDRA BLAKESLEE of the New York Times gets me thinking about how we manufacture our experience of reality.
Using virtual-reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — in ordinary, healthy people, according to studies being published today in the journal Science.
The research reveals that “the sense of having a body, of being in a bodily self,” is actually constructed from multiple sensory streams, said one expert on body and mind, Dr. Matthew M. Botvinick, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Princeton University.
Usually these sensory streams, which include vision, touch, balance and the sense of where one’s body is positioned in space, work together seamlessly, Dr. Botvinick said. But when the information coming from the sensory sources does not match up, the sense of being embodied as a whole comes apart.
The brain, which abhors ambiguity, then forces a decision that can, as the new experiments show, involve the sense of being in a different body.
This is another example of how the brain can interpret information and perceive something that doesn’t exist. Not necessarily a big deal but if it can make these types of mistakes with sensory stream information, what is the error potential for thought stream information?