Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Out-of-body Experiences May Be Caused By Arousal System Disturbances In Brain

Date:
March 6, 2007
Source:
University of Kentucky
Summary:
Having an out-of-body experience may seem far-fetched to some, but for those with arousal system disturbances in their brains, it may not be a far off idea that they could sense they were really outside their own body watching themselves.

Having an out-of-body experience may seem far-fetched to some, but for those with arousal system disturbances in their brains, it may not be a far off idea that they could sense they were really outside their own body watching themselves. In previous studies of more than 13,000 Europeans, almost 6 percent said they have had such an out-of-body experience.

Related Articles


Dr. Kevin Nelson and a research team at the University of Kentucky have studied the link between out-of-body experiences, the sleep-wake transition and near death experiences, and published their findings today in the March 6 issue of the journal Neurology in their case report, "Out-of-body experience and arousal."

The results are intriguing, and show that some people's brains already may be predisposed to these sorts of experiences. They found that an out-of-body experience is statistically as likely to occur during a near death experience as it is to occur during the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Nelson suggests that phenomena in the brain's arousal system, which regulates different states of consciousness including REM sleep and wakefulness, may be the cause for these types of out-of-body displays.

"We found it surprising that out-of-body experience with sleep transition seemed very much like out-of-body experience during near death," Nelson said.

For their study, the team conducted structured interviews with 55 people who have had a near death experience. They found those who had an out-of-body experience along with near death were more likely to also have had some sort of REM intrusion in their lifetime, where instead of passing directly between the REM sleep state and wakefulness, the brain switch blends these states into one another.

To survey out-of-body experiences that occurred during sleep transition, patients were asked, "Just before falling asleep or just after awakening, have you had the sense that you are outside of your body and watching yourself?" A similar question was posed to survey out-of-body experiences during near death, which asked subjects if during their experience they had "clearly left the body and existed outside it."

Because the arousal system controls or influences sleep-wake states, alertness and attention, Nelson and the research team questioned whether people with near death experiences may already have an arousal system predisposed to allowing intrusion of REM sleep elements during the transition between wakefulness and sleep.

Sleep paralysis is a common form of REM intrusion, which can cause a condition of temporary paralysis along with visual or auditory hallucinations immediately after waking up or before falling asleep due to an ill-timed disconnection between the brain and the body. Although it was once considered very rare, about 25 percent of all people have probably experienced sleep paralysis sometime during their life.

During a medical crisis, Nelson said muscle paralysis combined with an out-of-body experience could show many of the same prominent features of a near death experience. Near death experiences are responses to a life-threatening crisis, and are characterized by a combination of disassociation from the physical body, euphoria and transcendental or mystical elements.

This investigation supports the notion of out-of-body experiences as an expression of arousal in near death experiences and sleep paralysis. Almost all of the near death subjects having sleep paralysis, 96 percent, also had an out-of-body experience either during sleep transition or near death.

"The strong association of sleep paralysis with out-of-body experiences in the near death experience subject is curious and unexplained," Nelson said. "However, persons with near death experiences appear to have an arousal system predisposed to both REM intrusion and out-of-body experiences."

Nelson is a professor of neurology at the UK College of Medicine and a UK HealthCare physician at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute. Other team members are Michelle Mattingly, assistant professor of neurology, and Frederick A. Schmitt, professor of neurology, both at the UK College of Medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kentucky. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Kentucky. "Out-of-body Experiences May Be Caused By Arousal System Disturbances In Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070305202657.htm>.
University of Kentucky. (2007, March 6). Out-of-body Experiences May Be Caused By Arousal System Disturbances In Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070305202657.htm
University of Kentucky. "Out-of-body Experiences May Be Caused By Arousal System Disturbances In Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070305202657.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins