A Moment of Science

Out-of-body Experience

Do you think you've seen a ghost, or an alien, or God? Or have you had an out-of-body experience? Learn more on A Moment of Science.

Do you think you’ve seen a ghost, or an alien, or God? Or have you had an out-of-body experience? Increasingly, evidence suggests that phenomena such as these are nothing more than products of happenings in the brain.

Researchers have induced these perceptions by subjecting the brain’s temporal lobe regions to magnetic fields, as well as by electrically stimulating a smaller region within that area. They’ve also demonstrated that when Buddhist monks meditate and Franciscan nuns pray, their brain scans reveal abnormally low activity in another part of the brain, the parietal lobe.

When it functions normally, the parietal lobe processes information about the position of our body parts in relation to each other and to the space and objects surrounding us. In this way, the brain enables us to experience the feeling of our own physical position with respect to the space and objects around us, helping to create the sharp distinction between self and non-self.

Scientists argue that when the activity within this area is very low, as in deep meditation or prayer, this division between self and non-self breaks down. This may be what enables monks to feel oneness with the universe and nuns to feel the presence of God, as well as for people to experience the sensation that they are outside of their bodies.

According to scientists, the paranormal or supernatural are really normal and natural mysteries that will eventually be explained by science.

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