In our work as trauma specialists we often see people who have had an out-of-body experience during a traumatic event such as assault or sexual violation. They might say something like, “I wasn’t there. I floated up to the ceiling and looked down at my body.”
We know that this is a not uncommon reaction to a situation of inescapable attack, but now we have a scientific explanation of what is happening in the brain.
Dr. Brugger, a neuroscientist in Zurich, says, “The research shows that the [sense of] self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience.”
A region of the brain, the angular gyrus, blends vision with body sense. When the functioning of this region is interrupted, through a traumatic event or other cause, otherwise normal people experience bodily delusions.
Reports Dr. Blanke, a Swiss neurologist, “The felt sensation of the body is so seamless, so familiar, that people do not realize it is a creation of the brain.”
People who have these experiences sometimes attribute them to paranormal forces. What is actually happening is that the brain is attempting to make sense of conflicting information.
–The New York Times, 10-3-2006