Astral Projection – A true experience or a trick of brain?

A few people claim that they have had bizarre experiences being outside their very own body and roam in a strange astral plane. This post analyses the scientific explanation behind this phenomena.

Astral projection is a paranormal interpretation of out-of-body experiences that assumes the existence of one or more non-physical planes of existence and an associated body beyond the physical. Commonly such planes are called astral, etheric, or spiritual. Astral projection is often experienced as the spirit or astral body leaving the physical body to travel in the spirit world or astral plane.

An out-of-body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE) is an experience that typically involves a feeling of floating outside one’s body and, in some cases, the feeling of perceiving one’s physical body as if from a place outside one’s body (autoscopy). OBEs can be induced by brain traumas, sensory deprivation, near-death experiences, dissociative and psychedelic drugs, dehydration, sleep, and electrical stimulation of the brain, among others. It can also be deliberately induced by some. One in ten people have an OBE once, or more commonly, several times in their life.

Causes:

  • The “Mind Awake, Body Asleep” state is widely suggested as a cause of OBEs.
  • Magnetic stimulation of the brain, as with the God helmet developed by Michael Persinger.
  • Electrical stimulation of the brain, particularly the temporoparietal junction.
  • A study conducted by Jason Braithwaite and colleagues (2011) linked the OBE to “neural instabilities in the brain’s temporal lobes and to errors in the body’s sense of itself”.
  • Terence Hines (2003) has written that spontaneous out-of-body experiences can be generated by artificial stimulation of the brain and this strongly suggests that the OBE experience is caused from “temporary, minor brain malfunctions, not by the person’s spirit (or whatever) actually leaving the body.
  • The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is an area of the brain where the temporal and parietal lobes meet. The TPJ integrates information from both the external environment as well as from within the body. The TPJ is responsible for collecting all of this information and then processing it. This area is also known to play a crucial role in self-other distinctions processes and theory of mind (ToM). Theory of Mind is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own. Furthermore, damage to the TPJ has been implicated in having adverse effects on an individual’s ability to make moral decisions and has been known to produce out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Electromagnetic stimulation of the TPJ can also cause these effects.

God Helmet:

The God Helmet was not specifically designed to elicit visions of God, but to test several of Persinger’s hypotheses about brain function. The first of these is the Vectorial Hemisphericity Hypothesis, which proposes that the human sense of self has two components, one on each side of the brain, that ordinarily work together but in which the left hemisphere is usually dominant. Persinger argues that the two hemispheres make different contributions to a single sense of self, but under certain conditions can appear as two separate ‘selves’. Persinger and Koren designed the God Helmet in an attempt to create conditions in which contributions to the sense of self from both cerebral hemispheres is disrupted.

The second experimental hypothesis was that when communication between the left and right senses of self is disturbed, as they report it is while wearing the God Helmet, the usually-subordinate ‘self’ in the right hemisphere intrudes into the awareness of the left-hemispheric dominant self, causing what Persinger refers to as “interhemispheric intrusions”.

The third hypothesis was that “visitor experiences” could be explained by such “interhemispheric intrusions” caused by a disruption in “vectorial hemisphericity”. Persinger theorises that many paranormal experiences, feelings of having lived past lives, felt presences of non-physical beings, ghosts, muses, and other “spiritual beings”, are examples of interhemispheric intrusions.

The God Helmet experiments were also intended, though not specifically designed, to validate the idea that religious and mystic experiences are artifacts of temporal lobe function.

Autoscopy:

Autoscopy is the experience in which an individual perceives the surrounding environment from a different perspective, from a position outside of his or her own body. It is the impression of seeing one’s own body. According to neurological research, autoscopic experiences are hallucinations. Several analysis has suggested that autoscopic experiences are due to functional disintegration of lower-level multisensory processing and abnormal higher-level self-processing at the temporoparietal junction.

Heautoscopy is a term used in psychiatry and neurology for the reduplicative hallucination of “seeing one’s own body at a distance”. It can occur as a symptom in schizophrenia and epilepsy. Heautoscopy is considered a possible explanation for doppelgänger phenomena.

The term polyopic heutoscopy refers to cases where more than one double is perceived. In 2006, Peter Brugger and his colleagues described the case of a man who experienced five doubles resulting from a tumor in the insular region of his left temporal lobe.

Another related autoscopy disorder is known as negative autoscopy (or negative heautoscopy) a psychological phenomenon in which the sufferer does not see his or her reflection when looking in a mirror. Although the sufferer’s image may be seen by others, he or she claims not to see it.

To summarize, as the OBEs can be simulated to occur, it explains that it is a trick of brain which can automatically happen during sleep without any need for simulation.

So, the next time if any one says they have been roaming all night with a super soul-suit, enlighten them by explaining how their very own brain tricked them!

Please share your thoughts on this along with your experiences, if any, in the comments section! 🙂

Happy hallucinating! 😀

Credits:
Wikipedia

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s