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Scientists Spot Brain Center for 'Out-of-Body' Experience
Date:10/31/2007

Systems coordinating the sense of self may break down, the researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- New research is taking a little of the mystery out of the phenomenon known as the "out-of-body" experience.

A team of Belgian scientists have linked the sense of disembodiment central to the experience -- the feeling of leaving one's body and then floating outside it -- to abnormal activity in a specific region of the brain.

This activity appears to short-circuit the processing of sensory information and the ability to locate oneself in time and space, the team said.

"Self-perception is nothing else but a creation of your brain," explained study lead author and neurosurgeon Dr. Dirk De Ridder, of the neurosurgical department at Antwerp University. "We found a key spot in the brain in which different areas are normally activated whenever stimulus comes in, so you can relate that stimulus to yourself, which helps create a unified perception of ourselves."

"The 'total perception of self,' " he added, "is built out of different parts. And one of these parts is that your consciousness belongs within your body."

"But when something goes wrong in that brain area so that the integration of all the incoming information -- sight, sound, smell, the senses -- is not happening as it should, then you can feel that you're not in your body," De Ridder said. "You can get an out-of-body experience. You're perfectly conscious. But you just feel as if you're not actually sitting in your body."

His team reported its finding in the Nov. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

De Ridder's team discovered what they believe is a hardwired connection between the out-of-body experience and specific abnormal brain activity. They did so while observing the unanticipated side-effects of a treatment offered to a 63-year-old Belgian patient suffering from tinnitus, more commonl
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