Neuronal network with electrical activity of neuron cells 3D rendering illustration. Neuroscience, neurology, nervous system and impulse, brain activity, microbiology concepts. Artist vision.
Out-of-body experiences, drug-induced “astral travel” is quite famous. But, curiously, the out-of-body experiences they are also suffered by patients with certain mental illnesses, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome – PTSD for its acronym in English – or Borderline Personality Disorder. The problem, from a scientific point of view, is that it is not known what causes these experiences, and to be able to treat patients who suffer related ailments it is necessary to know it.
So a group of researchers set out to find a way to achieve these out-of-body experiences without using drugs. And for this, they started giving drugs to some mice, which at first seems like it doesn’t make much sense.
But it does. Researchers they used their experiments with drugs known to cause “astral travel”, mainly with ketamine, to determine what was happening in the brains of the mice that received the drugs that it did not happen in the brains of those who were not drugged.
What they found was a curious reaction in a very specific area of the brain. In the retrospenial cortex, an area of the cortex that is responsible for connecting with other regions of the brain, an electrical oscillation appeared – that it is electrical has nothing in particular, after all, the nerve impulse is electrical currents, but that it is an oscillation it is.
So there was already a suspicion, and with that suspicion they went to work. They implanted electrodes in mice, in order to stimulate that region of the brain with beams of light. And when they stimulated the area, tested the mice for symptoms of extracorporeal experience: weird movements, unusual behaviors such as burning a leg and not trying to cool it …
And it turned out that yes, that if the retrospenial cortex was stimulated, drug-free “astral travel” was generated in mice. What would happen in humans? To verify this, they looked for volunteers who already had electrodes implanted, and stimulated that same region of the brain.
The results were quite clear: with the appropriate stimulation they could generate extracorporeal experiences in people who did not suffer them regularly, and without the need for drugs.
What is more important: now we know what causes these extracorporeal experiences, at least at the biophysical or physiological level. What is the first step in finding a way to prevent them from happening, which can help many patients. Also how to provoke them, which at a medical level can also have interesting applications.