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Brain misfiring linked to 'out-of-body experiences'

24 September, 2002

Many people report experiences of 'leaving' their body and watching it from above. Now Swiss researchers, writing in the journal Nature, report that they have found the brain centre that may trigger this phenomenon.

Neurologist Olaf Blanke and his colleagues of Geneva University Hospital were using electrodes to stimulate the brain of a woman during her treatment for epilepsy. Exciting one spot - the angular gyrus in the right cortex - repeatedly caused out-of-body experiences. "I see myself lying in bed, from above," she told them. When asked to lift and look at her arm, she thought it was trying to punch her.

Blanke suspects that the angular gyrus may match up information from the visual system, which sees the body, and those that create the mind's representation of the body using touch and balance information. When the two become dissociated, an out-of-body experience might result.