September 7th, 2007

Friendlier Ole Al




The recent flurry started with this – spread hither and yon in the paranormal and even occultist media.  I was first notified on this piece if work by my good friend and fellow author Brad Steiger.


Experiments get close to 'out-of-body' experience

European scientists have come close to replicating the mysterious "out-of-body" experience that trauma survivors sometimes report feeling as death nears.

By E.J. Mundell


European scientists have come close to replicating the mysterious "out-of-body" experience that trauma survivors sometimes report feeling as death nears.

The results of two experiments on healthy volunteers, reported in the Aug. 24 issue of Science, offer what experts call a plausible neurological explanation for these uncanny events.

An "out-of-body" experience is the feeling of corporal detachment and of looking at your own body from some distance, and it may arise when various sensory systems or "modalities" - vision, touch and the sense of being in your body, called proprioception - become disconnected under stress.

The new research "shows that the integration of various sensory modalities is important for retaining our sense of where our body is, of where our self is in that body," explained Dr. Kevin Nelson, a leading researcher on near-death phenomena who was not involved in either of the new studies.

Far from being a rare occurrence, the "out-of-body" experience is actually quite common, as Nelson's own work has shown. "In fact, one of 20 people have had 'out-of-body' experiences," said Nelson, who is a neurology professor at the
University of Kentucky in Lexington. "In our study of 55 normal, everyday people, 3 - about 6 percent - had had an 'out-of-body 'experience."

Still, it has been tough to fully investigate "out-of-body" experiences, because they are so uncontrolled and spontaneous.

So, in the two Science studies, researchers tried to recreate them for healthy volunteers.

In one case, volunteers in
London were equipped with high-tech 3-D goggles with which they viewed a real-time 3-D film of their own bodies, taken from a perspective of about six feet behind them.

At the same time, a researcher used two plastic rods to simultaneously touch the volunteer's real chest (out of his or her view) and the filmed - but distant - version of their chest in exactly the same spot.

The result, according to the participants, was the sensation of sitting behind their physical body and looking at it from that six-foot distance.

"This was a bizarre, fascinating experience for the participants - it felt absolutely real for them and was not scary," the author the study, Dr. Henrik Ehrsson of the University College London's Institute of Neurology, said in a prepared statement.

Ehrsson even used a hammer to create the illusion that the distant, illusory body was going to be hit. When that happened, sensors on the volunteers' skin showed increased sweating, indicating that they felt the threat was real.

Another team, this time led by Olaf Blanke of the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, in
Switzerland, tried a slightly different experiment. In this case, the participants watched one of three 3-D holographic projections: of their own body, the body of a dummy, or a square block placed directly in front of them.

In each instance, the image's "back" was stroked with a brush, sometimes in sync with a brush being stroked on the volunteer's own back. Immediately afterward, the person was blindfolded and backed up, then told to return to where he believed he had been standing before.

If the participants had viewed either the dummy body or the block, they invariably returned to the correct spot, suggesting that they had not lost the notion of their actual body's position. However, participants who had viewed the 3-D likeness of themselves typically overshot the mark and advanced to where the illusory duplicate had been.

One expert called the findings "intriguing."

"You are feeling this touch as if you are watching it - like you are somewhere else," said Paul Sanberg, director of the
Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa.

"It's like those video games where you are driving a car, but the car is in front of you," he reasoned. "You aren't actually in the car, but, in essence, I think some people think they are in the car."

While Ehrsson claims to have recreated a true "out-of-body" experience in the lab, Blanke's group doesn't go so far. They noted that the participants said they understand that the video "them" was just an illusion - whereas people who typically have "out-of-body" experience believe they are observing their own body. "We have only induced some aspects of 'out-of-body' experience," the Swiss team concluded.

Nelson believes that neither team fully replicated the "out-of-body" state but did create a convincing "illusion."

"I think these are very clever and interesting experiments," he added. "And I think they show the importance of the visual system in how we integrate our identity of self in space."

In other words, the two experiments create a visual illusion that is so convincing to the brain that it somehow disrupts the usually seamless integration between the eyes, touch and proprioception, Nelson said. The result - which might also occur during sleep-wake transitions, as the brain is put under stress near death, or in certain medical conditions - is that sensation of temporarily losing contact with the body.

None of this means that vision is the key component, Nelson said. "If we were able to manipulate another (sense) in such a comprehensive or complete fashion, maybe we'd get similar results," he added.

"There's a simple way of proving that," he said. "Close your eyes. Can you still tell where you are or where your body is? You can. You have no visual input, yet you still retain that sense of self and where you are in space."

He agreed with Blanke that your close identification with your own body was essential to the illusion, since viewing a dummy body had no effect.

"Full body consciousness seems to require not just the 'bottom up' process of correlating sensory information but also the 'top down' knowledge about human bodies," Blanke said in a statement.

The new findings have implications beyond neuroscience, he added. They might lead to better and more "real" video gaming technologies, or even surgeries where doctors conduct procedures from a distance.

Blanke's research team even included one philosopher - because the connection between the body and consciousness runs to the heart of much of theology and philosophy.

Nelson said it's tempting - but probably erroneous - to infer any higher spiritual meaning from these scientific findings, however.

"Does this ultimately prove a certain duality or spiritual, Platonic kind of existence?" he said. "No, these are totally separate (investigations), and people get them muddled and confused."

Published: August 27. 2007


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Friendlier Ole Al



 continued from Part 1

That said, we turn to some rather recent Work on flatliners who came back with a story to tell.

Here is an important paper by the lead researcher of the largest hospital-based NDE study about the implications of near-death experiences on theories of continuity of consciousness.

In this paper van Lommel discusses some more general aspects of death, followed by more details from his prospective study on near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest in the Netherlands, which was published in the Lancet. He also comments on similar findings from two prospective studies in survivors of cardiac arrest from the USA and from the United Kingdom. Finally, he discusses implications for consciousness studies, and how it could be possible to explain the continuity of our consciousness.

The study of patients with NDE, however, clearly shows us that consciousness with memories, cognition, with emotion, self-identity, and perception out and above a life-less body is experienced during a period of a non-functioning brain (transient pancerebral anoxia).” Pim van Lommel

About the Continuity of Our Consciousness

vanlommelcDr.  Pim van Lommel,

Cardiologist, Division of Cardiology, Hospital Rijnstate,
PO Box 9555, 6800 TA Arnhem, The Netherlands.


Some people who have survived a life-threatening crisis report an extraordinary experience. Near-death experiences (NDE) occur with increasing frequency because of improved survival rates resulting from modern techniques of resuscitation. The content of NDE and the effects on patients seem similar worldwide, across all cultures and times. The subjective nature and absence of a frame of reference for this experience lead to individual, cultural, and religious factors determining the vocabulary used to describe and interpret the experience. NDE can be defined as the reported memory of the whole of impressions during a special state of consciousness, including a number of special elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review. Many circumstances are described during which NDE are reported, such as cardiac arrest (clinical death), shock after loss of blood, traumatic brain injury or intra-cerebral haemorrhage, near-drowning or asphyxia, but also in serious diseases not immediately life-threatening. Similar experiences to near-death ones can occur during the terminal phase of illness, and are called deathbed visions. Furthermore, identical experiences, so-called “fear-death” experiences, are mainly reported after situations in which death seemed unavoidable like serious traffic or mountaineering accidents. The NDE is transformational, causing profound changes of life-insight and loss of the fear of death. An NDE seems to be a relatively regularly occurring, and to many physicians an inexplicable phenomenon and hence an ignored result of survival in a critical medical situation.

And should we also consider the possibility of conscious experience when someone in coma has been declared brain dead by physicians, and organ transplantation is about to be started? Recently several books were published in the Netherlands about what patients had experienced in their consciousness during coma following a severe traffic accident, following acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), or following complications with cerebral hypertension after surgery for a brain tumour, this last patient being declared brain dead by his neurologist and neurosurgeon, but the family refused to give permission for organ donation. All these patients reported, after regaining consciousness, that they had experienced clear consciousness with memories, emotions, and perception out of and above their body during the period of their coma, also “seeing” nurses, physicians and family in and around the ICU. Does brain death really means death, or is it just the beginning of the process of dying that can last for hours to days, and what happens to consciousness during this period? Should we also consider the possibility that someone who is clinically dead during cardiac arrest can experience consciousness, and even whether there could still be consciousness after someone really has died, when his body is cold? How is consciousness related to the integrity of brain function? Is it possible to gain insight in thisrelationship? In my view the only possible empirical approach to evaluate theories about consciousness is research on NDE, because in studying the several universal elements that are reported during NDE, we get the opportunity to verify all the existing theories about consciousness that have been discussed until now. Consciousness presents temporal as well as everlasting experiences. Is there a start or an end to consciousness?

In this paper I first will discuss some more general aspects of death, and after that I will describe more details from our prospective study on near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest in the Netherlands, which was published in the Lancet.1 I also want to comment on similar findings from two prospective studies in survivors of cardiac arrest from the USA2 and from the United Kingdom.3 Finally, I will discuss implications for consciousness studies, and how it could be possible to explain the continuity of our consciousness.



Originally published in: Brain Death and Disorders of Consciousness. Machado, C. and  Shewmon, D.A., Eds.  New York, Boston, Dordrecht, London, Moscow: Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Adv Exp Med Biol.  2004; 550: 115-132.


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Friendlier Ole Al



 Continued from Part 2

4.2. The Holographic Life Review

During this life review the subject feels the presence and renewed experience of not only every act but also every thought from one’s past life, and one realizes that all of it is an energy field which influences oneself as well as others. All that has been done and thought seems to be significant and stored. Insight is obtained about whether love was given or on the contrary withheld. Because one is connected with the memories, emotions and consciousness of another person, you experience the consequences of your own thoughts, words and actions to that other person at the very moment in the past that they occurred. Hence there is during a life review a connection withthe fields of consciousness of other persons as well as with your own fields of consciousness (interconnectedness). Patients survey their whole life in one glance; time and space do not seem to exist during such an experience. Instantaneously they are where they concentrate upon (non-locality), and they can talk for hours about the content of the life review even though the resuscitation only took minutes. Quotation:

“All of my life up till the present seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic, three-dimensional review, and each event seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of good or evil or with an insight into cause or effect. Not only did I perceive everything from my own viewpoint, but I also knew the thoughts of everyone involved in the event, as if I had their thoughts within me. This meant that I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others, as if I saw things with all-seeing eyes. And so even your thoughts are apparently not wiped out. And all the time during the review the importance of love was emphasised. Looking back, I cannot say how long this life review and life insight lasted, it may have been long, for every subject came up, but at the same time it seemed just a fraction of a second, because I perceived it all at the same moment. Time and distance seemed not to exist. I was in all places at the same time, and sometimes my attention was drawn to something, and then I would be present there.”

Also a preview can be experienced, in which both future images from personal life events (sometimes remembered only later in the shape of “déja vu”) as well as more general images from the future occur, even though it must be stressed that these surveyed images should be considered purely as possibilities. And again it seems as if time and space do not exist during this review. Quotation:

“I had a nice eye contact, they looked at me full of love, and then I surveyed a great part of my life to come; the care for my children, the terminal illness of my wife, the circumstances I would be mixed up with, in my job and besides. I surveyed it completely; and then I got the feeling that I had to decide now: ‘I may stay here, or I have to go back,’ but I had to decide now.”

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Friendlier Ole Al


Continued from Part 3

Article from Skeptical Investigations

The Background
In his "Skeptic" column in Scientific American in March, 2003, Michael Shermer cited a research study published in
The Lancet, a leading medical journal, by Pim van Lommel and colleagues. He asserted this study "delivered a blow" to the idea that the mind and the brain could separate. Yet the researchers argued the exact opposite, and showed that conscious experience outside the body took place during a period of clinical death when the brain was flatlined. As Jay Ingram, of the Canadian Discovery Channel, commented: "His use of this study to bolster his point is bogus. He could have said, 'The authors think there's a mystery, but I choose to interpret their findings differently'. But he didn't. I find that very disappointing" (Toronto Star, March 16, 2003). Here, Pim van Lommel sets out the evidence that Shermer misrepresented.

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