Leaving Body and Life Behind


Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and near-death experiences (NDEs) are complex phenomena that have fascinated mankind from time immemorial. OBEs are defined as experiences in which a person seems to be awake and sees his body and the world from a disembodied location outside his physical body. Recent neurological and neuroscientific research suggests that OBEs are the result of disturbed bodily multisensory integration, primarily in right temporo-parietal cortex. NDEs are more loosely defined, and refer to a set of subjective phenomena, often including an OBE, that are triggered by a life-threatening situation. Although a number of different theories have been proposed about the putative brain processes underlying NDEs, neurologists and cognitive neuroscientists have, so far, paid little attention to these phenomena, although several experimental investigations based on principles from cognitive neuroscience are possible. This might be understandable but is unfortunate, because the neuroscientific study of NDEs could provide insights into the functional and neural mechanisms of beliefs, concepts, personality, spirituality, magical thinking, and the self. Based on previous medical and psychological research in cardiac arrest patients with NDEs, we sketch a neurological framework for the study of the so-called NDEs.

The Neurology of Conciousness