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Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure. Read More: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranormal

TOPIC: The woman who can leave her body at will

The woman who can leave her body at will 17 Mar 2014 16:09 #1

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www.popsci.com/article/science/woman-who-can-will-herself-out-her-body
After a class on out-of-body experiences, a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa came forward to researchers to say that she could have these voluntarily, usually before sleep. "She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this," wrote the scientists in a study describing the case, published in February in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Pretty crazy, right? One would think that if you could leave your own body and float above it, you'd be a little more... vocal about it. But since it was a common experience for her--one she "began performing as a child when bored with 'sleep time' at preschool... moving above her body" instead of napping--it may have appeared unremarkable. This is way more interesting than what I did, which was indeed napping.

The most exciting thing about this case, to me, is "the possibility that this phenomenon may have a significant incidence but [is] unreported because people do not think this is exceptional," as the authors wrote. "Alternatively," they continued, "the ability might be present in infancy but is lost without regular practice. This would be reminiscent of the discovery and eventual study of synesthesia that some researchers now hypothesized is more prevalent in young people or can be developed."

"She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body"
Those are fascinating suggestions--both that these out-of-body experiences may be more common than previously thought, or could be learned during a critical window early in life.

But back to the case study. The 24-year-old "continued to perform this experience as she grew up assuming, as mentioned, that 'everyone could do it.'" This is how she described her out-of-body experiences: "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."

An unusual find, wrote the scientists, University of Ottawa researchers Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier--this is the first person to be studied able to have this type of experience on demand, and without any brain abnormalities. Instead of an "out-of-body" experience, however, the researchers termed it a "extra-corporeal experience" (ECE), in part because it lacks the strong emotions that often go hand-in-hand (such as shock & awe, for example).

To better understand what was going on, the researchers conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of her brain. They found that it surprisingly involved a "strong deactivation of the visual cortex." Instead, the experience "activated the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery," such as mental representations of bodily movement.

Her experience, the scientists wrote, "really was a novel one." But just maybe, not as novel as previously thought. If you are capable of floating out of your body, don't keep it to yourself!
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The woman who can leave her body at will 17 Mar 2014 16:11 #2

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www.popsci.com/blog-network/unpopular-science/woman-who-thinks-she-can-will-herself-out-her-body
Hold on just a second," you're thinking to yourself (I am not a psychic but I occasionally play one in blog posts). "Didn't I already read this article on Popular Science?"

No, friend: you read an article written by Douglas Main titled "The Woman Who Can Will Herself Out Of Her Body," which differs from this article's title by a few very small yet critical words. You see, that post describes a case study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled "Voluntary out-of-body experience: an fMRI study." Nothing in the post is immediately and obviously wrong, per se, but there are many things that are, at best, unclear. For instance, I've described this paper as a "case study," while the original article terms it a "study describing the case." The difference in wording seems minimal, but one phrase clearly means an exploration of one particular person or group, while the latter could mean an actual experimental study that includes this case in it.

It's important for readers to understand that the fMRI paper is not an experiment with a hypothesis, like "people can leave their bodies and float around the room," that has been tested in a double-blind scenario, like "once the subject was asleep, a playing card was placed next to them and removed before they woke. They were asked to name the card they saw during their out-of-body experience", and been shown to be statistically valid, like "8 out of 10 times the subject was able to correctly identify the playing card," and been peer reviewed and then published in a journal. Instead, this is the case of a person who claims to be able to leave her body at will, so researchers stuck her in an fMRI machine and looked at what happened to her brain when she was having this experience/hallucination.

The word "hallucination" appears ten times in the case study yet zero times in the Popular Science article. Because of this, a naive person who reads the PopSci article but not the original paper may walk away with the belief that the brain scans show what happens when a person actually leaves their body, as opposed to showing what happens when a person feels as though they are leaving their body. Again, the difference seems small but is actually quite large: the former describes a study that would be at home on an episode of Coast to Coast or Fringe or those episodes of Family Matters where Urkel did science experiments, and the latter would be at home in a scientific journal to be used as the basis for further study and experimentation.

In Douglas Main's defense, he may have not considered while writing the article that there are many people out there who really believe that some people have the ability to float up out of their bodies and wander around town like Ghost Dad. These people, however, not only exist but are always excited when a high-traffic science outlet gives them something to support their beliefs, so it may be best if we keep them in mind from now on
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The woman who can leave her body at will 17 Mar 2014 16:12 #3

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