Afterlife: Expert discusses 'feelings' in near-death experiences
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Scientists estimate about 10 percent of all people will experience an OBE at least once in their lifetime. These can occur during a moment of intense trauma like a car crash or heart attack, or during an episode of epilepsy. In most cases, out-of-body experiences are characterised by the unusual but oddly real feeling of being outside of one’s body.
Cardiac arrest patients, for instance, frequently claim to have seen their bodies while floating near the ceiling.
Such profound experiences often lead people to search for a deeper meaning in life, believing they have caught a glimpse of the afterlife.
One man who claims to have suffered a near-fatal heart attack told investigators he briefly stepped outside of his body.
Another man claims to have had a similar experience after accidentally drowning.
Researchers are, however, certain these accounts can be explained through neurochemical processes in the brain, and not supernatural forces in the afterlife.
According to Dr Jane Aspell, a cognitive neuroscientist at Anglia Ruskin University, there is strong evidence to show OBEs are purely a physical, if still somewhat understood process.
The OBE expert previously told Express.co.uk the experiences may feel “incredibly real” but they are a hallucination caused by the brain “going haywire”.
Dr Aspell has now explained how you can safely experience something very similar to an OBE from the comfort of your home.
As part of her research into the therapeutic aspects of OBEs, the neuroscientist has been inducing OBEs in volunteers using virtual reality headsets.
She explained: “It is quite easy to do. So you have a virtual reality headset that’s linked to a video camera.
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“So then let’s say the video camera is filming you – it’s positioned behind you – it’s filming your back.
“So then when you put the virtual reality headset on you can see what the camera sees, so you see yourself standing in front of you.
“You see your double essentially and then if you have the experimenter tap you on the back while you’re standing there, you will then see your double in front of you being tapped.
“So it’s a really strange kind of thing to experience.”
Participants in the study report an odd sensation of no longer being inside of their own body, but rather the one that is in front of them, projected onto their VR headset.
Dr Aspell added: “We have a bit of fun with that in the lab.”
And you can try it at home, provided you have access to a VR headset and camera or webcam.
In some cases, the reaction to the effect is pretty strong, although Dr Aspell said not everyone reacts the same way.
Just try not to do it for too long!
Dr Aspell warned hours spent replicating this effect may trigger a dissociative state, particularly in people more susceptible to this condition.
Prolonged exposure could potentially lead to a condition like depersonalisation, which is a psychiatric condition in which people feel detached from themselves.
But there are also potential therapeutic applications to the technique, that the expert is exploring through her research funded by the Versus Arthritis charity and The Bial Foundation.
In particular, the expert is exploring whether the technique could be used to treat or alleviate chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.
In a 2017 study, Dr Aspell and her colleagues have been able to reduce pain levels by up to 40 percent in a number of people with various conditions.
She said: “In a way if you can almost distance yourself from the body that’s in pain, could it reduce your experience of pain?”
Dr Aspell appeared in Chelmsford this week to discuss her work at the British Science Festival, which ends today.
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