Out-of-Body Experiences Highlight the Nature of Consciousness

By understanding what causes shifts in how we experience consciousness, neuroscientists will be able to understand more fully what underpins our connection to the external world. 

What's the Latest Development?


By studying patients who regularly have out-of-body experiences, which result in the location of the self outside the physical body, scientists are beginning to understand which parts of the brain are responsible for our experience of consciousness. Traumatic events, such as a car accident, are known to produce out-of-body experiences, where people feel they are watching from the outside, as though their life were a movie played in slow motion. But other people feel the shift in consciousness as a result of a psychological condition called depersonalization disorder (DPD), which causes them to feel disconnected from their own mental processes. 

What's the Big Idea?

By using healthy people as controls, scientists have located which parts of the brain change when people undergo shifts in conscious experience. "Various papers...have pinpointed two parts of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and right anterior insular cortex (AIC), as being involved in producing subjective feelings, and in coordinating appropriate responses to internal and external events." These same regions are what the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio calls 'the core self', i.e. "the mental representation of an innate feeling of subjective awareness, characterised by continuity and individuality."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less