15784Out Of Your Mind
- Nov 4, 2007Brain stimulation sparks out-of-body experience
Thu Nov 1, 2007 8:58am EDT
BOSTON (Reuters) - Electrodes implanted into the
brain to treat a man with a stubborn case of ringing
in the ear instead sparked an out-of-body sensation,
doctors in Belgium reported on Wednesday.
Stimulating the electrodes made the 63-year-old
patient feel like he was outside his body twice,
for 15 and 21 seconds, and allowed the doctors to
use a PET scanner to track which parts of the brain
became active during the experience.
The out-of-body sensation of near-death experiences,
sometimes reported by people whose hearts have
stopped for a time, are regarded by some people as
evidence of an afterlife.
Most scientists are doubtful, especially when
epilepsy, migraine headaches, and brain stimulation
can mimic the sensation.
A team led by Dirk De Ridder of the Antwerp University
report in the New England Journal of Medicine that
they were trying to cure the man of tinnitus in one
ear when they stumbled onto the phenomenon.
The treatment did not work. Instead, the electrodes
made the man feel like he was about 50 centimeters
(20 inches) behind his body and off to the left.
Only a certain pattern of stimulation, involving a
portion of the superior temporal gyrus, located on
the right side of the brain, produced the sensation.
Positron emission tomography, or PET scans, showed
that other parts of the brain became active as a result,
including the supramarginal gyrus, which processes
information from the inner ear designed to detect
head movement and position.
"Whether these regions are activated in patients
who report disembodiment as part of a near-death
experience -- and if so, how -- is a provocative
but unresolved issue," they wrote.
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