Xeno's strange news awards blog.
Chew on this for a few years…
Recent experiments by researchers at the Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden show that it is possible to rather easily trick the mind’s sense of self into leaving the body. Given visual cues and physical sensations of the right timing your brain will ‘teleport’ what you experience as ‘you’ into space, into a complete stranger or even into a mannequin. This can be done with the whole body or just parts. This convincing illusion of teleportation happens while subjects are fully awake.
Knowing this, we can now understand and explain thousands of years of writings about experiences of “astral projection” and out-of-body experiences as real illusions. We can smile wryly about the “shaman” who achived this ability through years of spiritual purification, because really, anyone’s brain will do this in a few minutes given the right misleading visual and physical cues.
In the new study from the Karolinska Institutet, neuroscientists created an out-of-body illusion while participants were in an MRI brain scanner. The researchers discovered that the sensation of being inside your own body isn’t as hardwired as you’d expect.
The Swedish researchers created an illusion that teleported the perceptions of each participant to different locations within a room. This study builds on previous research in which the scientists tricked participant’s brains into believing that they’d been teleported into the body of another person or a mannequin.
The May 2015 study, ““Posterior Cingulate Cortex Integrates the Senses of Self-Location and Body Ownership,” was published in the scientific journalCurrent Biology.
For this study, the researchers created an out-of-body illusion in fifteen healthy participants while inside a brain scanner. In the experiment, the participants wore head-mounted video display screens and viewed themselves and the brain scanner from another part of the room.
The sense of owning one’s body and being located somewhere in space is so fundamental to our sense of self that we usually take it for granted. However, creating an accurate sense of self is a complex task. Proprioception requires the continuous integration of information from all of your senses to maintain an accurate sense of where your body is located in space and in relation to the people around you.
From the new visual perspective in the experiment, each participant observed the body of a stranger in the foreground while his or her own physical body was visible in the background. To create the illusion of being teleported, the scientists touched the participant’s body with an object in synchrony with identical touches being delivered to the stranger’s body while the participant viewed the live-action through a virtual reality headset.
“In a matter of seconds, the brain merges the sensation of touch and visual input from the new perspective, resulting in the illusion of owning the stranger’s body and being located in that body’s position in the room, outside the participant’s physical body,” lead author of the study, Arvid Guterstam, said in a press release.
The team at the Karolinska Institutet have mastered the art and science of studying how our sense of self can be be manipulated simply by creating illusions that subvert our everyday relationship to reality in positive and negative ways.
The out-of-body illusions created in the laboratory confirm that our sense of self is malleable and that our ability to empathize with another person’s pain and suffering occurs at a neurobiological level.
– Psychology Today, 2015
One thing everyone should get around to doing in this lifetime is answer this deviously simple question:
“What am I?”
The answer is that ‘you’ are the result of your brain dynamically building, as best it can, a mental model that integrates input from your many senses, emotions, memories and thoughts. You are an active process of integration.
This process can be tricked, resulting in any number of weird seemingly spiritual experiences, such as a fighter becoming one with his sword, a shawman leaving his body to travel on “the astral plane,” or a healer projecting into another person’s body.
The fact that your “self” is trickable is not evidence of an immortal immaterial essence. Yes, your “soul” (experience of self) can be made to leave your body, but that experience of leaving your body requires a brain that is in the process incorrectly assembling the self.
I’m hoping this research increases the possibility of soothly transferring your consciousness into a computer at your body’s physical end. Which brings up the question… What if this illusion is resting on top of another illusion?
How do you really know that this consciousness transfer has not already been done? Perhaps you are “a brain in a vat,” living an entirely imaginary existence.
What experiments could you do to disprove a world of pure imagination?
If you are a brain in a vat, is reincarnation real? Yes, of course, you could easily be reincarnated into different people, or even animals.
Were the moon landings faked? Yes, of course, it’s an absurd question because everything is faked.
How much control of the dream reality does the dreamer get? That depends on how the programmers set it up.
Careful, don’t go crazy. 😉