New research demonstrates that triggering an out-of-body experience (OBE) could be as simple as getting a person to watch a video of themselves with their heartbeat projected onto it. According to the study, it’s easy to trick the mind into thinking it belongs to an external body and manipulate a person’s self-consciousness by externalizing the body’s internal rhythms. The findings could lead to new treatments for people with perceptual disorders such as anorexia and could also help dieters too.
In a typical out-of-body experience a person either experiences a feeling of floating outside of their body or of viewing it from outside of themselves. Most of us don’t experience OBE’s because our brains are constantly filtering information from all our senses to help us identify what we are and what we aren’t.
For instance we know that our reflection isn’t actually part of us. However the processes that give us the feeling of being in our bodies can be disrupted either naturally (seizures) or artificially (feeding the brain conflicting sensory inputs). For example, in the well known “rubber hand” illusion, a person begins to identify more with a rubber hand when someone strokes it in front of them, while stroking their real hand out of sight.
It’s possible to expand this feeling to include the whole body as demonstrated in experiments that get a person to identify more with a virtual double than their own body by using virtual reality goggles. However, all of these experiments rely on manipulating external senses such as vision and touch.