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Out-of-body experiences may be caused by arousal system disturbances in brain

Having an out-of-body experience may seem far-fetched to some, but for those with arousal system disturbances in their brains, it may not be a far off idea that they could sense they were really outside their own body watching themselves. In previous studies of more than 13,000 Europeans, almost 6 percent said they have had such an out-of-body experience.

Dr. Kevin Nelson and a research team at the University of Kentucky have studied the link between out-of-body experiences, the sleep-wake transition and near death experiences, and published their findings today in the March 6 issue of the journal Neurology in their case report, "Out-of-body experience and arousal."

The results are intriguing, and show that some people's brains already may be predisposed to these sorts of experiences. They found that an out-of-body experience is statistically as likely to occur during a near death experience as it is to occur during the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Nelson suggests that phenomena in the brain's arousal system, which regulates different states of consciousness including REM sleep and wakefulness, may be the cause for these types of out-of-body displays.

"We found it surprising that out-of-body experience with sleep transition seemed very much like out-of-body experience during near death," Nelson said.

For their study, the team conducted structured interviews with 55 people who have had a near death experience. They found those who had an out-of-body experience along with near death were more likely to also have had some sort of REM intrusion in their lifetime, where instead of passing directly between the REM sleep state and wakefulness, the brain switch blends these states into one another.

To survey out-of-body experiences that occurred during sleep transition, patients were asked, "Just before falling asleep or just after awakening, have you had the sense that you are outside of your body and watch
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Contact: Hollye Staley
Hollye.Staley@uky.edu
859-323-6363
University of Kentucky
5-Mar-2007


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