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Top image: Significantly activated regions of the brain while the participant was having extra-corporeal experiences. Most significantly activated regions are lateralized to the left side and include the supplementary motor area (F), the cerebellum (B,D,E), the supramarginal gyrus (D,F), the inferior temporal gyrus (B,D,F), the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri (A,C,D,E).

Top image: Significantly activated regions of the brain while the participant was having extra-corporeal experiences. Most significantly activated regions are lateralized to the left side and include the supplementary motor area (F), the cerebellum (B,D,E), the supramarginal gyrus (D,F), the inferior temporal gyrus (B,D,F), the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri (A,C,D,E).

Astral projections and out-of-body experiences, or what some people call “astral trips,” are rather common these days as while some experience it through near death experiences, psychedelic experiences or sensory deprivation, many are practices astral project on their own as it can be seen as a similar practice to meditation only with different end results.

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The Study

Recently, and for the very first time, a team of scientists found someone who claims she is able to step out of her body at will and see herself outside of her body. The scientists studied her experiences using a brain scanner in an attempt to determine what might be happening when she is having these experiences and whether or not a deeper explanation can be found.[1]

Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier were from the University of Ottawa describe the subject’s ability in their published paper.

She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above, but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body. The participant reported no particular emotions linked to the experience.

Interestingly, researchers discovered that her brain was consistently showing “strong deactivation of the visual cortex” while “activating the left side of several areas associated with kinaesthetic imagery,” (this includes mental imagery of bodily movement.) Essentially, this is the area of the brain that allows us to interact with the outer world. It allows you to feel where your body is in time and space within our world.

Both Sides of The Story

While the researchers involved in the experiment reported that her experiences were “hallucinations,” it’s important to note this is not based on a scientific analysis, but rather the best explanation available given the limitations of science at this point. Does this mean she was truly astral traveling or projecting? We can’t say for sure which is why it’s important to realize both sides of the story.

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It is also important to note, as complete believers of this type of information may not look at the sides of the argument they can’t explain, skeptics also do the same. In reports, things they could not explain are sometimes left out and not focused on or best explanations are given, but are not necessarily what the true cause is. In the end, the point I am attempting to make here is that from a scientific validation point of view, there is neither full proof for either side of the explanation, but it is certain that what she was experiencing was real in the sense that she was seeing what she was claiming to see and her brain activity was confirming this.

Science Doesn’t Yet Have The Answers

At this point, scientists continue to speculate that these types of experiences are hallucinations triggers by a neurological mechanism and the scientists of this study believe there are others out there who can do this at will. On the other side of the coin, and in line with my own understanding, people believe that these experiences are in fact real projections of their consciousness outside of their body. Much like the experiments done by the CIA involving remote viewing, where Ingo Swann, the test subject, was able to remote view specific rings around Jupiter before NASA’s Pioneer 10 Spacecraft flew by it. He was also able to remote view bases on the moon, according to his book, but at that point the project was shut down. [2]

Finally, it is possible that her experience may end up being like synesthesia, which is a neurological phenomenon that was largely ignored during the mid-20th century. Synesthesia is described as an experience where people are able to automatically see colors in their brain when they read or hear letters, numbers and words. At the time, this was widely unaccepted as possible yet not is accepted, studied and understood. This, among many other scientific understandings, should always remain up for review and we should always be open to saying “we may not fully understand all we think we do.”  I believe the time will come when much of what Eastern philosophy has described for so many years will continue to be backed up by science as it catches up to the inner understandings people have beyond the mind.

Sources:

http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/unpopular-science/woman-who-thinks-she-can-will-herself-out-her-body

1. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00070/full

2. http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/08/08/shocking-discoveries-made-studies-confirm-the-reality-of-remote-viewing/


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